The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has ruled that Meal and Rest Break rules for truck drivers in Washington state are preempted by federal regulations.
In a notice scheduled for publication in the Federal Register on November 17, the FMCSA agreed with petitioners that “the State of Washington’s Meal and Rest Break rules (MRB rules) are preempted as applied to property-carrying commercial motor vehicle drivers subject to FMCSA’s hours of service (HOS) regulations.”
The FMCSA ruling was issued in response to a 2019 petition filed by the Washington Trucking Association (WTA). The WTA petition argued that Washington’s MRB rules are similar to California meal and rest break rules that the FMCSA previously ruled were preempted by federal regulations.
The FMCSA determined that “the FMCSRs establish driving-time limits and prohibit a driver from operating a CMV when too fatigued to do so safely. Washington’s MRB rules do not improve upon the Federal regulatory framework … the studies support the Agency’s conclusion that layering additional break requirements over the Federal HOS regulations—which require a 30-minute break from driving and any additional breaks that a driver finds necessary to avoid unsafe fatigued driving—does not provide additional protection against the risks of fatigued driving.”
FMCSA also called Washington’s MRB rules “incompatible with the Federal HOS rules” and said that they “actively undermine Congress’s goal of uniformity, as well as FMCSA’s affirmative policy objectives by abrogating the flexibility that the Agency built into the HOS rules.”
The FMCSA ultimately concluded that:
(1) Washington’s MRB rules are State laws or regulations “on commercial motor vehicle safety,” to the extent they apply to drivers of property-carrying CMVs subject to FMCSA’s HOS rules.
(2) Washington’s MRB rules are additional to or more stringent than FMCSA’s HOS rules.
(3) Washington’s MRB rules have no safety benefit.
(4) Washington’s MRB rules are incompatible with FMCSA’s HOS rules.
(5) Enforcement of Washington’s MRB rules would cause an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce. Accordingly, FMCSA grants WTA’s petition for preemption and determines that Washington’s MRB rules are preempted pursuant to 49 U.S.C. § 31141. Effective the date of this decision, Washington may no longer enforce the MRB rules with respect to drivers of property-carrying CMVs subject to FMCSA’s HOS rules.