SC&RA Files Petition with FMCSA on California Rest Break Requirements

- SC&RA filed a petition with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on October 30th that requests that the FMCSA determine that California’s meal and rest break requirements are preempted under 49 U.S.C. § 31141.

Currently, federal safety requirements mandate that drivers take a rest break prior to the commencement of the eighth hour of driving time, but California’ meal and rest break requirements mandate that drivers take a break once every five hours.

In 2014, the Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association (SC&RA) filed a petition with the FMCSA that over-size/overweight carriers (OS/OW) operating under the authority of special state permits should be exempted from the application of the federal rest break requirements. FMCSA evaluated the safety argument proposed by SC&RA and agreed that imposition of the federal rest break requirement was not justified from a safety perspective, and that parking OS/OW vehicles might in fact be more of a risk to the travelling public and granted the exemption in 2015 and granted a similar exemption for mobile cranes in 2016.

The exemptions remain in effect today, however, SC&RA member companies operating in compliance with the exemptions from federal rest break requirements, could be sued for not complying with California’s rest break requirements. SC&RA filed a petition with FMCSA, and separately filed comments to a similar petition filed by the American Trucking Association, to emphasize the need for FMCSA to use existing regulatory authority to strike down state enforcement of motor carrier safety regulations that were not identical to federal safety regulations.

SC&RA’s petition points out that FMCSA had been empowered historically with legal and regulatory authority to provide for the uniform application of federal safety requirements to avoid a patchwork system of state safety regulation. FMCSA is evaluating the Association’s comment and petition and can order California’s meal and rest break requirements to be unenforceable. It could penalize California with reductions of federal funding for motor carrier safety for having regulations that were not identical to federal standards. For more information, contact Joel Dandrea.

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