FMCSA determines that Washington’s break rules are preempted

November 16, 2020

Mark Schremmer

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has determined that Washington’s meal and rest break rules are preempted by federal rules.

FMCSA’s determination is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, Nov. 17.

The notice was in response to a petition submitted by the Washington Trucking Association requesting a determination that the state of Washington’s meal and rest break rules are preempted as applied to property-carrying commercial motor vehicle drivers subject to FMCSA’s hours-of-service regulations.

“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 benefit, are incompatible with federal regulations, or would cause an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce,” the agency wrote. “FMCSA has determined that Washington’s meal and rest break rules are laws on commercial motor vehicle safety, that they are more stringent than the agency’s hours-of-service regulations, that they have no safety benefits that extend beyond those that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations already provide, that they are incompatible with the federal HOS regulations, and that they cause an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce.”

In its petition, the Washington Trucking Association noted the FMCSA’s previous determination that California’s meal and rest break rules were preempted by federal rules and said that the same preemption should apply to Washington’s rules.

The Washington Trucking Association petitioned FMCSA in April 2019. Washington law requires employers to provide employees with a meal period of at least 30 minutes for every five-hour period and a 10-minute break for every four-hour work period.

The rules are similar to California’s meal and rest breaks laws, which FMCSA said in December 2018 were preempted.

The determination, which was specific to California’s meal and rest break laws, said that the California 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,” then-FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez said when the California determination was announced. “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.”

“Given the similarity between Washington and California’s meal and rest break rules, the agency’s analysis of California’s rules in its recent preemption order applies equally to Washington’s,” WTA wrote in its petition. LL

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Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.