Truck Driver Break Laws at Issue in Federal Appeals Court

Anybody with a connection to the commercial trucking industry should pay careful attention to a pending federal appeals court ruling concerning California’s law on truck driver breaks.

Whichever ruling the court hands down has the potential to send ripples across the trucking industry nationwide.

At issue is California’s meal- and rest-break law, which mandates that employees who work 10 hours or more be given two half-hour meal breaks and two 10-minute rest breaks. The law is counter to the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994, which doesn’t allow states to impose laws that interfere with motor carriers’ rates, routes or services. As a result, a lower federal court previously exempted carriers from complying with the California law, but three Penske drivers have appealed.

The appeals court decision, which isn’t expected for months, has the potential to alter the ways in which the trucking industry operates. Potentially, truck drivers could be forced to comply with varying hours-of-service limits from one state to the next. Some states require employers to provide a 30-minute meal break every six hours. Others require a 30-minute break between the second and fifth hour. Considering the inter-state travels of many commercial trucks, an assortment of differing rules by state would create a confusing and potentially impossible-to-navigate world of commercial transportation.

Truck accident attorney Michael Leizerman is the author of the three-volume treatise “Litigating Truck Accident Cases.” Contact him at 419-243-1010. 

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