The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is actively seeking petitions for waivers from its previous decision to preempt meal and rest break rules in California and Washington. But time is running out.
“While petitions for waiver may be submitted at any time, FMCSA requests that any petitions for waiver of the … preemption determinations be submitted by Nov. 13, 2023,” the agency wrote in its August notice. “FMCSA will publish any petitions for waiver that it receives and will provide an opportunity for public comment with respect to the petitions.”
California and Washington have meal and rest break laws that generally require employers to provide a 30-minute break for every five hours worked and a 10-minute break for every four hours worked.
Some trucking groups argue that the rules cause disruptions to interstate commerce. In 2018, the American Trucking Associations and Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association petitioned FMCSA to preempt California’s break rules, arguing that they are “incompatible” with federal regulations. FMCSA granted the petition. In 2020, the agency granted a similar petition from the Washington Trucking Associations.
At that time, FMCSA concluded that the states’ rules were more stringent than federal regulations and that they provided no additional safety benefits.
A petition must demonstrate that a waiver is in the public interest and consistent with the safe operation of commercial motor vehicles, FMCSA said.
“A petition for waiver need not contend that the agency erred in determining that the California and Washington meal and rest break rules are laws on commercial motor vehicle safety, that they are more stringent than the federal hours-of-service regulations or that they meet any or all the criteria for preemption,” FMCSA wrote in the notice. “The agency encourages waiver petitioners to include arguments that do not depend on a conclusion that the agency’s preemption determinations were erroneous.”
ATA opposes FMCSA’s efforts to consider waiving the preemption.
“Federal law already mandates rest breaks for drivers,” ATA wrote in a statement. “Unnecessary and duplicative state laws are not grounded in safety and have been primarily enforced via private lawsuits designed to extort the trucking industry. Opening the door to this spurious litigation once again would impair the safe and efficient movement of interstate goods. ATA is fully prepared to oppose this effort that would result in a confusing patchwork of regulations. We will leverage all of our federation’s resources to stop this in its tracks.”
To submit a petition, go to the regulations.gov website and use one of the following Dockets IDs: FMCSA-2018-0304, FMCSA-2019-0048 or FMCSA-2019-0128.
Once the Nov. 13 deadline passes, FMCSA is expected to publish any petitions received and make them open for public comment. LL