California files petition with FMCSA for waiver for meal/rest breaks | Wind warnings: Wyoming I-80, other roads

Trucking news and briefs for Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023:

California officially seeks waiver from meal and rest break preemption

After the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced in August it would consider petitions for waivers from its decisions to preempt California and Washington state’s Meal and Rest Break (MRB) rules, California has officially filed its petition.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta, in partnership with the California Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower, announced Monday, Nov. 13, the filing of its petition seeking a waiver of federal preemption determinations that prevent the state from enforcing its meal and rest break requirements for truck and bus drivers in California. 

While federal regulations allow truck drivers to drive eight hours without a break, California law generally requires employers to allow for 30-minute meal breaks during each five hours of work, and 10-minute rest breaks for every four-hour work period. Lawyers representing classes of workers against carriers large and small have made hay of -- and plenty of money from -- the discrepancy and the nature of on-highway work to seek judgments in the millions in court against companies for not accounting or allowing for the breaks. 

[Related: A small fleet v. the Teamsters]

In 2018 and 2020 under the Trump Administration, FMCSA declared California’s rules preempted by federal regulations and therefore unenforceable. If FMCSA grants the waiver, Bonta said California can resume enforcing its meal and rest break rules on truck drivers.

“Meal and rest breaks are essential for the welfare of our workers, but are especially important for commercial drivers,” Bonta said. “Fatigued driving is especially deadly in the trucking and busing industries and contributes to accidents on California’s roadways.”

Bonta went on to add that FMCSA’s preemptions “endanger the health and welfare of California’s workers. All workers deserve a work environment that affords them safety and security.”

In the petition sent to FMCSA, Bonta and García-Brower argued that enforcing the state’s meal and rest break rules would “have a significant positive impact on health and safety of drivers.” They also argued that the breaks would not contribute to the truck parking shortage, which was part of FMCSA’s reasoning behind the preemptions. “FMCSA failed to consider the flexibility inherent in the MRB Rules that would obviate the need for CMV drivers to park in ways that impair safety or require additional CMV parking,” the petition said.

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FMCSA said in its August notice that petitions be submitted by Nov. 13. The agency is expected to publish any petitions for waiver that it receives and allow for public comment.

[Related: FMCSA opens door for California, Washington to challenge its Trump-era meal-and-rest-break preemptions]

Wyoming DOT warns of high winds, plans highway closures for certain trucks

The Wyoming Department of Transportation has issued through its Commercial Vehicle Operator Portal a warning about a high wind forecast beginning overnight Wednesday into Thursday in parts of the state.

The notice warns of 55+ mph crosswinds, presenting an “extreme blow-over risk” with an expected roadway closure to enclosed trailers under 40,000 pounds GVWR for the following routes and times:

  • I-80, Cheyenne to Laramie: Expect crosswinds of 60+ mph from 3 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 16
  • I-80, Laramie to Rawlins: Expect crosswinds of 60+ mph from 11 p.m. Wednesday to 11 a.m. Thursday
  • I-25, Cheyenne to Wheatland: Expect crosswinds of 60+ mph from 3-10 a.m. Thursday
  • I-25, Wheatland to Casper: Expect crosswinds of 55+ mph from 1-10 a.m. Thursday
  • Highway 258 Outer Drive: Expect crosswinds of 55+ mph from 1-10 a.m. Thursday
  • Highway 28 South Pass: Expect crosswinds of 60+ mph from 9 p.m. Wednesday to 4 a.m. Thursday

[Related: 'Estimated opening time is unknown': Winter from hell on I-80 in Wyoming]

Indiana propane haulers get HOS relief

With demand for propane gas in Indiana currently exceeding the locally available supply, Gov. Eric Holcomb is suspending hours of service regulations for propane haulers in the state through Dec. 4.

In an executive order issued on Nov. 8, Holcomb noted that propane distributors are already experiencing supply shortages, long lines at terminals and transportation challenges.

Holcomb said that suspending certain HOS regulations for truck drivers transporting propane “will help ensure that adequate supplies are distributed throughout Indiana, reducing the damaging effects of any shortages.”

With the executive order, motor carriers and drivers transporting propane in Indiana are exempt from the regulations in 49 Code of Federal Regulations 395 for the duration of the order.

[Related: Iowa extends harvest proclamation increasing weight limits another month]

Specialized construction fleet seeks HOS exemption

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will begin accepting comments Thursday, Nov. 16, on a request from Reiman Corp. for an exemption from certain hours-of-service regulations.

Reiman Corp.’s drivers transport latex embedded cement for use at highway construction sites.

In its request, the company asks that it be allowed to operate under the same hours-of-service exception provided for “specially trained drivers of commercial motor vehicles that are specially constructed to service oil wells.”

Reiman said it considers its operations similar to that of oilfield operations, in part because “its drivers are specially trained to operate vehicles that are specially designed to transport specific products with vehicle-mounted equipment,” FMCSA’s notice said.

The company is requesting that its drivers be allowed to record waiting time at construction sites as “off-duty,” adding that waiting time would not be included in calculating the 14-hour period. If granted the waiver, Reiman drivers would not be eligible to use the short-haul provisions, the company noted.

Comments can be made for 30 days beginning Nov. 16 at by searching Docket No. FMCSA-2023-0195.

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