FMCSA axes California break law for bus drivers

March-April 2020

Land Line Staff

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Mandatory meal and rest breaks for bus drivers in California have been nixed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

In a notice published in the Federal Register on Jan. 21, FMCSA grants a petition submitted by the American Bus Association requesting preemption of California’s meal and rest break rules for passenger-carrying drivers.

The latest preemption follows one granted in December 2018 for drivers of property-carrying commercial vehicles at the behest of the American Trucking Associations and the Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association. That decision has been challenged by the California Labor Commissioner’s Office and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in separate lawsuits. Those cases are still pending.

On Jan. 10, 2019, the bus group petitioned FMCSA to preempt California statutes and rules requiring employers to give employees meal and rest breaks during the work day, as applied to drivers of passenger-carrying vehicles.

The notice explains that federal law provides for preemption of state laws on commercial motor vehicle safety that are additional to or more stringent than federal regulations if they have no safety benefits, are incompatible with federal regulations, or would cause an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce.

“FMCSA acknowledges that the state of California has a legitimate interest in promoting driver and public safety. However, just as the federal HOS rules and other provisions in the FMCSRs serve to promote that interest with respect to drivers of property-carrying CMVs, so do they serve to promote it for drivers of passenger-carrying CMVs,” the notice states.

In spite of that acknowledgement, the agency determined the meal and rest breaks went too far.

“The FMCSA has determined that California’s (meal and rest break) rules … are more stringent than the agency’s hours-of-service regulations, … have no safety benefits that extend beyond those already provided by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, … are incompatible with the federal hours of service regulations, and that they cause an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce,” the notice states.

The notice of preemption goes into effect with its publication to the Federal Register. LL

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