FMCSA shouldn’t issue preemptions until lawsuits are resolved, OOIDA says

November 11, 2019

Mark Schremmer

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The FMCSA should not issue any more preemptions regarding state meal and rest breaks until lawsuits have been resolved, OOIDA wrote in formal comments to the agency.

OOIDA’s comments were in response to the Washington Trucking Associations’ petition seeking a determination that Washington’s meal and rest break laws are preempted by federal law.

In December 2018, FMCSA determined that California’s meal and rest break rules were preempted. The decision led to several lawsuits.

“Moving forward, the agency should not issue any further preemptions until cases reviewing California’s meal and rest break laws and FMCSA’s 2018 decision have been analyzed and resolved by the judiciary,” OOIDA wrote in comments signed by President and CEO Todd Spencer.

WTA’s petition

WTA petitioned the agency in April, requesting a determination that Washington’s meal and rest break rules, as applied to drivers of commercial motor vehicles subject to hours-of-service regulations, are preempted. In response, FMCSA published a notice and request for comments regarding the petition. The deadline to comment was set to end Nov. 8.

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.

Almost immediately, the decision prompted lawsuits from the California labor commissioner, the California attorney general, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

WTA said FMCSA should reach a similar determination, contending that, like California’s requirements, the Washington meal and rest break rules are “regulations on commercial motor vehicle safety,” and they are “additional to or more stringent that FMCSA’s rules.”

“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.

OOIDA comments

OOIDA said Washington’s meal and rest break laws are at least in part a reflection of how some motor carriers mistreat drivers.

“Contrary to WTA’s assertion, Washington’s meal and rest break laws do not undermine highway safety, nor is there any validated data in their petition to justify said claim,” OOIDA wrote. “WTA’s primary motive to preempt these laws is to maximize driver productivity.”

However, OOIDA did say that the issue is complex and that it has some concerns as well.

“OOIDA acknowledges some of the concerns raised in WTA’s petition,” the Association wrote. “Indeed, this issue is extremely complex. The full reach and applicability of Washington’s meal and rest break laws is unknown, and Washington could conceivably – and perhaps illegally – expand these laws to require owner-operators and non-Washington-based employee drivers to comply with them.”

Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, associate 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 nearly two decades of journalism experience to our staff.