Truckers Support Federal Rest Break Rules, Oppose State Regulations

Truckers want Congress to reject efforts by organized labor and trial attorneys to impose state scheduling rules.

In 2013, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) established an Hours-of-Service (HOS) regulation that required truck drivers to rest for 34 hours after a 70-hour workweek include two periods from 1:00 a.m.-5:00 a.m. of home terminal time. Under the 2013 rules, truckers must “demonstrate statistically significant improvement in all outcomes related to safety, operator fatigue, driver health and longevity, and work schedules, in comparison to…drivers who operated under the [earlier] restart provisions.” According to the trucking industry, the regulation resulted in a measurable (three to five percent) decline in productivity (truckwriters.com). In December 2016, Congress “fixed” the 34-hour restart rule by reverting back to the pre-July 2013 restart shifts. This meant truck drivers can take 34-hour restarts, but are no longer required to include the two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. resting periods in their schedules.

State regulations can differ.  For example, California labor laws imposed by California’s Industrial Welfare Commission require more frequent rests, specifically:  “No employer shall employ any person for a work period of more than five (5) hours without a meal period of not less than 30 minutes.”

According to the American Trucking Associations, however, Congress should “reject efforts by organized labor and trial attorneys that would impose a patchwork of state scheduling rules.”

The Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 made it clear states like California are not permitted to institute rules governing the trucking industry.

“A single set of consistent and fair regulations is essential to the trucking industry,” stated ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. “Language currently being discussed by Congressional leaders would ensure that drivers operate under a consistent set of break rules, whether that driver is delivering a trailer full of water to Flint, Mich., or picking up a load of avocados in Temecula, Calif. That’s what Congress sought to establish with a 1994 law, and recent interpretations of that law by the courts are threatening that consistency,” he added.

Opponents of the California regulations believe that the new administration’s readiness to invalidate safety and other regulations will support the revisiting and reversal of a 2014 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit that affirmed that California could enforce its own meal and rest break requirements for the trucking industry. “The Teamsters will lobby hard against such a change,” according to trucks.com. “The union will argue that Republicans have long been the party of states’ rights and limited government, and that blocking states from imposing their own rules over trucking would be inconsistent with that philosophy.”

Craig Follis has extensive experience in litigation, negotiating and settling suits, and providing legal opinions on liability and insurance coverage. You can reach him at (888) 703-0109 or via email at cfollis@lawyersva.com.

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