In a major shift from the Obama administration approach to motor carrier regulation and enforcement, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) explicitly referenced economic growth and the need for uniform commerce as reasons for preempting the application of California’s meal and rest break (MRB) rules on property-carrying commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers. The agency on December 21 granted The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) granted several petitions that had followed similar action in September by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration regarding carrier transporting hazardous materials. (See the October 2018 Regulatory Update.)

Not surprisingly, FMCSA action has already been challenged in court. The Teamsters Union filed a petition for review on December 27 with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit has traditionally been friendly to labor interests.

Although FMCSA has complied – at least superficially – with requirements for a cost/benefit analysis on rulemakings, during the Obama administration it steadfastly claimed that safety was the sole basis for decision making and that cost and economic issues were not its concern. FMCSA’s action, therefore, represents a stark contrast. Indeed, FMCSA Administrator Raymond Martinez even posted a video to emphasize the need for uniformity to encourage productivity and support small businesses.

FMCSA did not overlook the safety implications of California’s actions, however. For example, the agency cited a comment from the Oregon Department of Transportation that a truck parking shortage “increases closer to the California border,” where “more crashes are occurring,” likely as “a result of encountering troubles finding safe and adequate parking.”

The agency also said that California’s rules reduce productivity and are a drag on the economy. The agency cited a FedEx comment that “California rules have resulted in a costly loss to driver productivity,” as well as a National Retail Federation comment that a member company had reported that the California rules had resulted in a 3% reduction in productivity, costing the company $1.5 million a year.

“The Agency determines that enforcing the MRB Rules decreases productivity and results in increased administrative burden and costs,” FMCSA said in the preemption determination. “In addition, the Agency believes it to be an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce for motor carriers to have to cull through the varying State requirements, in addition to Federal HOS rules, to remain in compliance, as commenters have described. As explained above, uniform national regulation is less burdensome than individual State regulations, which are often conflicting. Therefore, the Agency concludes that the MRB Rules place an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce.”

For links to various documents related to the preemption determination, including the Martinez video, visit <> . For the Federal Register notice, visit <> .