Washington trucking group asks FMCSA to preempt state break law

October 9, 2019

Mark Schremmer

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In light of FMCSA’s decision that California’s meal and rest break rules were preempted by federal law, the Washington Trucking Associations wants a similar determination for the Evergreen State.

WTA petitioned the FMCSA 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 also preempted. On Wednesday, Oct. 9, the agency published a notice and request for comments regarding the petition.

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. California’s meal and rest break rules are similar.

WTA said 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 than FMCSA’s rules.”

In December 2018, FMCSA granted petitions from the American Trucking Associations and the Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association to preempt California’s meal and rest break rules for property-carrying truck drivers who are subject to federal hours-of-service rules. At the time, FMCSA said the determination was specific to California’s meal and rest break laws.

The agency said that California law is “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,” 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 post a safety risk but also lead to a loss in productivity and, ultimately, hurt American consumers.”

FMCSA’s determination immediately prompted lawsuits from the Teamsters and the California Labor Commissioner’s Office.

Similar to the petitions received for the California preemption, WTA said the state’s rules are incompatible with federal hours-of-service regulations and impose an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce.

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

Comments on the WTA petition will be accepted until Nov. 8. Comments may be submitted at the Regulations.gov website by using docket number FMCSA-2019-0128.

Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, staff writer, 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.