Food and rest period breaks for California truck drivers were made a little easier to work with recently, at least within the confines of the schedules required for transport drivers. The new regulation allows for the preemption of existing meal and break periods for drivers to take their 30 minutes meal break after eight hours of driving, rather than the standard five hours that had previously been required. Under the exemption guidelines, drivers can take the break when it makes sense to, instead of having to pull off and take the meal or rest period after five hours of drive time, maximum.
*The exemption only applies to truck drivers that are regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The ruling comes after it was determined by the FMCSA that the meal and rest break rules in California are not consistent with federal laws. The changes come as the FMCSA ruled that the existing laws do not provide any additional safety measures or outcomes and further, that they may actually create unnecessary obstacles that would inhibit interstate commerce. Because of the “unreasonable burden” created by the implementation of the California law, it was deemed unenforceable.
The appeal was filed by the American Trucking Associations in conjunction with the Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association, both of which claimed that the meal and rest break rules (MRB) for California proposed unreasonable parameters that would inhibit the productivity of drivers while providing no additional safety or benefit to consumers.
The California Rules
Under the previous rules, California drivers had to take a 30 minute break for every five hours worked and a 15 minute paid break every four hours. Failure to meet these criteria meant that employers had to pay an extra hour of work for the infraction, which could quickly get costly in terms of both time and money.
The petition filed against the existing law argued that the rules caused a loss of productivity in the range of 3% for drivers in California compared to those in other states, effectively forcing those companies to pass on the cost of productivity loss to the consumer.
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Commercial Trucking & The California Compliance Problem
One of the main issues with the exemption is that it’s very difficult to prove compliance, which is an issue that courts have been wrangling with for some time. Part of the problem is that there have been issues with truck drivers and California laws for some time—something that speaks both to the forward-looking approach of state lawmakers, as well as the fact that many in the industry see some California laws as excessively restrictive when it comes to getting their job done.
Rest Period & Meal Break Resources
FMCSA Break Ruling - The official ruling from the FMCSA regarding California meal and break periods, including the full text document and information about who to contact if you have questions.
U.S. Department of Transportation - A great resources for staying up to date on all the latest news, laws, and regulations that affect the transportation industry. If there’s big news or changes in the works or coming up, you’ll find out about them here.