Feds put brakes on California truck driver law

Photo of a Truck Driver

Home Furnishings Association member Rob Davis welcomed federal action curbing a California law setting meal and rest breaks for truck drivers.

“This is a victory for the transportation industry and for retailers that we service, but most of all it’s a victory for our workforce and the end consumer paying for the services,” said Davis, chief client officer for Diakon Logistics in Warrenton, Va. His company provides delivery services for retailers as well as warehousing and logistical support.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced Dec. 21 it would grant petitions to preempt California’s meal and rest break rules, which differ from federal hours-of-service regulations.

The California requirements cause “a disruption in interstate commerce,” FMCSA said in a news release. “In addition, the confusing and conflicting requirements are overly burdensome for drivers and reduce productivity, increasing costs for consumers.”

Davis, a member of HFA’s Government Relations Action Team, agrees.

“Our delivery teams work hard, they get paid exceptionally well and they have control over when they take breaks,” he said. “But when legislators try to dictate to them that they have to take a break in the middle of their run or stop for a meal when they are in traffic doesn’t make sense for them; it creates another layer of oversight that is unnecessary and increases costs. It’s difficult enough to find qualified drivers. We need to make it easier for folks to get into the business, not more difficult.”

“The trucking industry supports our nation’s economic growth by safely and efficiently moving goods across state lines, and this decision by the Department of Transportation will save jobs, unburden businesses throughout the supply chain and keep the prices Americans pay for food, clothing and countless other essential items affordable and accessible,” American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear said in a news release.

“Safety is FMCSA’s top priority and having uniform rules is a key component to increasing safety for our truck drivers,” FMCSA Administrator Raymond P. Martinez said.

FMCSA proposes revising hours-of-service regulations in four ways and may act in 2019:

  • Expanding the current 100 air-mile “short-haul” exemption from 12 hours on-duty to 14 hours on-duty, in order to be consistent with the rules for long-haul truck drivers
  • Extending the current 14-hour on-duty limitation by up to 2 hours when a truck driver encounters adverse driving conditions
  • Revising the current mandatory 30-minute break for truck drivers after 8 hours of continuous driving
  • Reinstating the option for splitting up the required 10-hour off-duty rest break for drivers operating trucks that are equipped with a sleeper-berth compartment

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