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Commercial Driver Meal and Rest Breaks

Published Thursday, February 28, 2019
by Gail Cecchettini Whaley, Esq.

Woman truck driverThe Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) granted petitions submitted by the American Trucking Associations requesting a determination that California’s meal and rest break rules (MRB rules) are pre-empted under federal law, at 49 U.S.C. § 31141, as applied to property-carrying commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers covered by the FMCSA’s hours of service rules.

The FMCSA has determined that the California MRB rules are laws on CMV safety, that they are more stringent than the FMCSA’S hours of service regulations, that they have no safety benefits that extend beyond those already provided by the FMCSA regulations, that they are incompatible with the federal hours of service rules, and that they cause an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce.

The California MRB Rules, therefore, are pre-empted under 49 U.S.C. § 31141(c) and federal rules govern. This petition was submitted on December 28, 2018 and is in effect now.

One example at issue was Cal. Labor Code § 512 (meal periods) where California drivers must stop for a 30-minute break after five hours. This rule directly conflicts with the applicable federal hours of service rule, which requires a 30-minute break after eight hours of driving. An argument against this California MRB rule was that it would have required CMV drivers to take two 30-minute breaks in an 11-hour driving day but only when in California, which led to confusion among drivers.

Subsequent to the determination, California may no longer enforce the MRB rules with respect to drivers of property-carrying CMVs subject to the FMCSA’s hours of service rules.

For more information, read the FMCSA determination.

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