After exempting carriers from Calif. meal/rest break laws, Washington state could be next

The U.S. DOT is considering exempting truck drivers and trucking companies from another set of state laws that require employers to provide workers with paid meal and rest breaks.

DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced Tuesday that it is reviewing Washington state laws — as they pertain to trucking — that require employers to provide workers with a meal break of at least 30 minutes for every five-hour work period and a paid 10-minute rest break for every four-hour work period.

Following a years-long fight around similar laws in California, FMCSA in December announced that carriers were exempt from California’s labor laws, meaning trucking companies did not have to provide drivers with state-required meal and rest breaks. FMCSA — and trucking trade associations — argued that those laws conflicted with federal hours of service regulations, and that federal laws supersede state laws. FMCSA pointed to the 1996 Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (F4A) as its legal backing for the decision.

Though the agency’s December decision has been challenged in court, the agency has taken Washington state’s laws under review. The agency is accepting comments on whether it should exempt motor carriers from Washington’s laws for 30 days. Comments can be made here through Nov. 8. The petition to exempt carriers from Washington’s laws was brought by the Washington Trucking Associations.

FMCSA’s 2018 determination regarding California’s laws is being challenged in court by the Teamsters and the state of California. However, separately, a federal court in California earlier this year upheld FMCSA’s decision by throwing out a case against U.S. Xpress brought by a group of drivers concerning the state’s meal and rest breaks.

In its petition, WTA argues that Washington’s rules are “more stringent that FMCSA’s rules,” adding that the breaks are incompatible with federal hours of service rules “and impose an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce.”