- The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) said on Dec. 21 that California trucking companies don’t need to provide paid rest and meal breaks for their truck driver employees.
- In a statement, FMSCA Administrator Ray Martinez said the rest break laws are causing issues at the California-Oregon border, where “more crashes are occurring.”
- Martinez also said the breaks reduced truck driver productivity in California by 3%.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) said on Dec. 21 that California trucking companies don’t need to provide paid rest and meal breaks for truck driver employees.
In 2014, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that carriers in California must ensure truckers get proper rest and meal breaks, just like employees at a typical firm. Labour laws in California stipulate that workers get a 30-minute meal break for shifts longer than five hours, and transportation workers rest for 10 minutes every four hours.
Such labour laws are typical in most states – but not in the trucking industry. Nationwide, truckers are required to take a 30-minute break during their workday and not drive for more than 11 hours in a day.
And unlike most workers, they’re not paid by hour or by year. Truckers are paid per mile, which means they aren’t compensated for time spent waiting for their shipments to load or unload or doing vehicle checks.
Why the federal government says California truckers shouldn’t get paid rest breaks
Industry groups including the American Trucking Associations (ATA) asked the FMCSA to exempt truck drivers from the California’s Meal and Rest Break rules. The FMCSA granted those petitions on Dec. 21, citing that federal laws overrule state laws on how and when truckers work.
“FMCSA is granting this petition to ensure uniform and consistent rules in order to promote safety and economic growth,” the administration said in a statement. “Drivers, consumers, and job creators are best served by reliable and consistent rules.”
The FMCSA said truckers coming or going from Oregon, for instance, cannot find parking, which have allegedly upped the rate of car crashes. “A patchwork of regulations disrupts interstate commerce and is not an effective or fair way to regulate the industry,” the FMCSA added.
In a video accompanying the statement, FMSCA Administrator Ray Martinez said the rest break laws are bad for the economy. If drivers are required to rest, that means they’re working less. That’s reduced driver productivity in California by 3%.
“California’s extra rules reduce productivity and are a drag on the economy,” Martinez said. “Every bit of loss productivity increases costs to consumers and hurts hard-working American families.”
But truck drivers and union representatives said the rest breaks are important. Doing away with them just increases the bottom lines for trucking companies, while exhausting the men and women who spend weeks away from home transporting more than 70% of the nation’s freight.
“Truck drivers have some of the longest hours of any workers in America,” Barry Broad, director of the California Teamsters Public Affairs Council, told The Wall Street Journal. “What you’re doing is you’re making tired people work more.”
Are you a truck driver who works in California? What do you think of the FMSCA ruling? Email the reporter at [email protected].
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