Bus association asks for a free pass from California break laws

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line associate editor | 5/8/2019

The American Bus Association is asking the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to add drivers of passenger-carrying commercial motor vehicles to the list of those who are exempt from California’s meal and rest break rules.

In December, FMCSA announced that California’s meal and rest break laws were pre-empted by the agency’s hours-of-service regulations as applied to property-carrying commercial motor vehicle drivers.

Now, the American Bus Association is petitioning the FMCSA to determine that the California rules are also pre-empted for bus and motorcoach drivers.

The state’s meal and rest break laws require employees to be provided an off-duty 30-minute break for every five hours worked and a 10-minute off-duty break for every four-hour period. The law has led to many class action lawsuits by commercial drivers.

In its petition, the American Bus Association argues that the break rules undermine existing federal fatigue management rules, that it is difficult for drivers to find parking, and that the rules create an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce.

When granting the petition from the American Trucking Associations and Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association regarding property-carrying commercial vehicle drivers, FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez said the rules were “incompatible” with federal regulations.

“Safety is FMCSA’s top priority and having uniform rules is a key component to increasing safety for our truck drivers,” Martinez said in the December news release. “During the public comment period, FMCSA heard directly from drivers, small-business owners and industry stakeholders that California’s meal and rest break rules not only pose a safety risk but also lead to a loss in productivity and, ultimately, hurt American consumers.”

The petition from the American Bus Association is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on May 9. Comments on the petition will be accepted until 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

In addition to submitting comments online, they may be mailed to: Docket Management Facility; U.S. Department of Transportation; 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE; West Building; Ground Floor; Room W12-140; Washington, D.C. 20590-0001.

FMCSA’s decision to grant the petition for ATA and the Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association has already affected meal and rest break lawsuits in California. On May 2, a California federal court dismissed part of a class action lawsuit against U.S. Xpress, citing FMCSA determination to pre-empt the meal and rest break rules.

The decision by the court points to a potential shift in favor of the trucking companies in these cases.

However, the shift could be only momentary depending on how the Ninth Circuit rules in challenges to FMCSA’s determination.

“It is well within a state’s rights to establish standards for the welfare of our workers,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a February news release. “Truck drivers, like every other person protected under California’s labor laws across hundreds of different industries, deserve adequate meal and rest breaks.”

 

 

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