In 1994, Congress voted that the federal government would determine interstate trucking rules as opposed to individual states. Known as F4A, the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act improved the flow of interstate commerce by creating consistent regulations from state to state throughout the U.S. Considering how many states a truck driver could pass through in a day, a week, or a year, it makes sense why T4A was passed and has worked for 20+ years.
In recent years, states have been passing their own regulations undoing some of the federal rules that currently govern trucking. In California, this includes state standards set around meal and rest breaks. California’s proposed break rules are meant to be for the general workforce, however truck drivers are not exempt from it and already have a set of meal and break standards they must adhere to as established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
You can imagine how confusing it would be if every time a trucker crossed a state line there was a different set of regulations, not to mention if truckers are duplicating or triplicating meal and rest breaks depending on how many states they drive through in a single day.
Congress has introduced another aviation bill reasserting that there should be a single, governing set of rules for truck drivers, however the language around meal and rest breaks was recently removed. The American Trucking Association (ATA) has been working with the House and Senate Commerce Committee on this issue for the past three years and are understandably disappointed. The ATA has now reached out to Truckstop.com for assistance in an attempt to get that language back into the bill.
On Sept. 24, the ATA filed a petition to resolve the problem with the Department of Transportation (DOT) and asked that truck drivers be exempt from California’s meal and break requirements. The petition states that it is the Secretary of Transportation who has the authority to determine whether state laws on commercial vehicles conflict with federal safety standards or burden interstate commerce. The ATA believes that creating duplicate meal and rest breaks will actually undermine safety in addition to burdening interstate commerce by interfering with federal requirements.
The DOT put the petition out for public comment at Regulations.gov. Comments can be submitted using the “Comment Now!” box at the top right. All comments must be submitted by Oct. 29.
The FMCSA is especially interested in hearing “what effect…California’s meal and rest break requirements may have on interstate commerce.” Based on your own experiences in transportation, share how California’s break rules could be detrimental to highway safety and are incompatible and a duplication of the federal hours of service regulations already in place.
If you’re a driver, you may share how an increase in breaks will impact the scarce parking situation trucks already deal with every day, and how that problem will lead to additional trucks parked on ramps, along shoulders, etc. creating hazardous conditions for everyone.
If you’re a shipper, make may want to share how state regulations will impact your dock operations and ability to meet customer delivery demands.
Congress must act to keep states from implementing a confusing set of regulations contrary to the federal rules already governing the trucking industry. Without it, we risk losing additional drivers and consumer goods become more expensive. Make your voice heard and help transportation providers improve the movement of freight for everyone.