Democrats urge DOT to reject ATA’s petition against California meal, rest breaks

November 8, 2018

Mark Schremmer


Nineteen Democratic lawmakers are urging the U.S. Department of Transportation to deny ATA’s petition for a determination that California’s meal and rest break rules are preempted by federal law.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., who is the ranking member on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and 18 others sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on Oct. 31. The letter was in response to ATA’s petition that was submitted in September.

“The petition represents another attempt by the ATA to preempt California’s paid meal and rest break laws, even though such arguments in support of preemption have been rejected previously by the U.S. Department of Transportation,” the letter stated.

“We strongly maintain that any change to preemption in this area requires a change in statute and must be left to Congress. We urge you to deny the petition submitted by the ATA and to allow Congress to continue to debate whether changes to the statute are warranted to promote uniformity for carriers while not undermining the firmly entrenched rights of states to enforce strong wage and hour protections for workers within their borders.”

Also in October, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association filed comments against ATA’s petition.

OOIDA acknowledged that California’s meal and rest break laws are controversial, but also said that ATA’s petition provides no reason to reverse previous decisions on the issue.

“More than a decade ago, FMCSA rejected a similar petition,” OOIDA wrote in comments signed by President Todd Spencer. “In its decision, the agency noted that California’s meal and rest break laws are not regulations pertaining to commercial motor vehicle safety, not unique to transportation, and the petition exceeded FMCSA’s congressional grant of authority. There is nothing in ATA’s petition that addresses these issues or would otherwise cause the agency to reverse its earlier decision.

“To be clear, OOIDA doesn’t necessarily support California’s meal and rest break laws either. In fact, if FMCSA were to propose similar changes to the federal HOS regulations, OOIDA would be adamantly opposed. OOIDA acknowledges some of the concerns raised in ATA’s petition. Indeed, this issue is extremely complex, and California could conceivably – and perhaps illegally – expand these laws to require owner-operators and non-California-based employee drivers to comply with them.”