Not So Fast on the Meal and Rest Periods… For Now
(June 2019) - Many trucking companies were celebrating the recent decision by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator (the Administrator) when, in pure Heisman trophy fashion, the Administrator “stiff-armed” California meal and rest period laws on his way to the proverbial end zone.
As covered in last quarter’s edition of this newsletter, on December 21, 2018, the Administrator issued a determination that the State of California's meal and rest break laws are preempted under Section 31141 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act’s (FMCSA) hours of service regulations, as applied to property-carrying commercial motor vehicle drivers. The Administrator held that California’s state laws: (1) provided no safety benefit, (2) are incompatible with the FMCSA hours of service regulations, and (3) cause unreasonable burden on interstate commerce. See 49 CFR §395.3(a)(3)(ii), 83 Fed. Reg. 67470 (Dec. 28, 2018)
However, in the famous words of beloved college football analyst Lee Corso: “not so fast, my friends.” While the December 2018 decision was a huge victory for trucking companies doing business in California, the battle of California’s meal and rest break laws is far from over. As would be expected, a few challengers to the Administrator filed appeals with the Ninth Circuit requesting the court overturn the Administrator’s decision. See Int’l Bhd. Of Teamsters, Local 2785 v. Fed. Motor Carrier Safety Admin., No. 18-73488 (filed Dec. 28, 2018); Int’l Bhd. Of Teamsters, Local 848, et al. v. Fed. Motor Carrier Safety Admin., No. 19-70323 (filed Feb. 6, 2019); Labor Comm’r for the State of California v. Fed. Motor Carrier Safety Admin., No. 19-70329 (filed Feb. 6, 2019)’ Ly v. Fed. Motor Carrier Safety Admin., No. 19-70413 (filed Feb. 19, 2019).
What does this mean for trucking companies? Like the millions of fans who watch the Heisman Selection Show with anticipation and trepidation, hoping their favorite athlete will be the one chosen to hoist the most prestigious trophy in college sports, they must wait and maintain the status quo. It is important that trucking companies continue to comply with California law while this appeal is pending. You don’t send your Heisman candidate into the game without his pads, so do the same for your company. Protect the players, until there is some finality to this ever-changing battle over meal and rest periods. As any good offensive lineman will tell you, this is a game of inches. Right now, the trucking companies have gained momentum and a few inches, but the play is still being reviewed by the Ninth Circuit.
Author: Treana L. Allen, Associate, Los Angeles