By American Trucking Associations Litigation Center
On January 15, 2021, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed FMCSA’s grant of ATA’s petition seeking a determination that California’s meal and rest break rules are preempted as applied to commercial drivers subject to federal hours-of-service regulations. After FMCSA issued its preemption determination in December 2018, the Teamsters, the California Labor Commissioner, and individual drivers represented by plaintiffs’ attorneys who have been active bringing wage and hour claims against motor carriers challenged the order, arguing that it went beyond FMCSA’s statutory authority and was arbitrary and capricious. A unanimous panel of the Ninth Circuit rejected those arguments, holding that FMCSA reasonably interpreted the preemption provision of the Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1984, 49 U.S.C. § 31141, which gives the agency the authority to review state laws and regulations “on commercial motor vehicle safety” and preempt them if certain factual criteria are met. The court recognized that even generally applicable state laws may be “on commercial motor vehicle safety” for purposes of the statute if they cover ground where FMCSA has exercised its safety regulatory authority. The court further concluded that FMCSA was not arbitrary or capricious in finding that application of California’s break rules to commercial drivers would cause an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce. On March 1, 2021, challengers filed petitions seeking rehearing by the Ninth Circuit sitting en banc. A pending Ninth Circuit challenge to a similar preemption determination that the Washington Trucking Association obtained with respect to Washington’s meal and restbreaks has been held in abeyance, at the request of the new administration to give it an opportunity to evaluate the case.
ATA’s petition for the preemption determination is available here. FMCSA’s California preemption order is available here, and its Washington preemption order here. The amicus brief ATA filed in support of the preemption order is available here. The Ninth Circuit’s decision is available here.