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Crane Hot Line

FMCSA Preempts California Law on Trucker Breaks

December 24, 2018 - The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has granted a petition determining that federal hours-of-service laws (49 U.S.C. § 31141) preempt the State of California’s laws requiring minimum meal and rest breaks for truckers operating in the state.

FMCSA’s determination came in response to widespread apprehension from drivers, concerned citizens, industry stakeholders, and petitions filed by the Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association (SC&RA). In particular, SC&RA’s argument on federal primacy over motor carrier safety was viewed within FMCSA as “key and essential” in granting the much-needed exemption. 

“This is a huge win for SC&RA and the greater industry at large,” said Joel Dandrea, SC&RA’s chief executive officer. “The ruling sets precedence and helps ensure much greater uniformity between federal and state regulations as we move forward.”

In 1984, Congress preempted states from enacting or enforcing policies related to motor carrier safety. FMCSA now recognizes that California’s law is incompatible with federal regulations and causes a disruption in interstate commerce.

In addition, according to FMCSA, the “confusing and conflicting requirements are overly burdensome for drivers and reduce productivity, increasing costs for consumers.” FMCSA has also contended that safety issues have likely resulted from the lack of adequate parking solutions for trucks in the state.

“While the exemption could be challenged in court,” said Dandrea, “the SC&RA petition outlined in great detail the FMCSA authority to be the primary arbiter of motor carrier safety, and we were pleased that the FMCSA administrator recognized our arguments and granted our petition. The Secretary has the statutory authority to make this decision and any opposition likely won’t hold up.”

According to FMCSA, any successful challenge to the new determination would have to prove that FMCSA was wrong on all three of its criteria determinations: that it poses no safety benefit, is incompatible with federal regulations and poses an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce.

“We’re extremely happy with FMCSA’s determination because it’s simply the right thing to do,” Dandrea explained. “We’ve seen our members become unnecessarily burdened by the state of California and we’re glad to know the situation is now rectified. SC&RA takes great pride in advocating for a safer, fairer, and more-uniform trucking environment. We commend FMCSA for taking our petition seriously and making a decision that benefits not just our members, but the entire transportation ecosystem.”    






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