California Employment Law Update – January 2019

California

FMCSA and Commercial Motor Vehicle Driver Meal and Rest Breaks

On December 27, 2018, the federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced that it granted petitions submitted by the American Trucking Associations and the Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association 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.

Federal law provides for pre-emption of state laws on CMV safety that are additional to or more stringent than federal regulations if they (1) have no safety benefit; (2) are incompatible with federal regulations; or (3) would cause an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce. 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.

For example, one of the California MRB rules at issue was Cal. Labor Code § 512 (meal periods) where in California drivers must stop for a 30-minute break after five hours. This MRB 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 and litigation for failure to comply with state law.

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.

Read the FMCSA determination