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Motor Carriers do not Need to Provide Drivers
with California Meal and Rest Periods, for Now!

Posted on February 2014 by S. Ward Heinrichs
Motor Carriers do not Need to Provide Drivers with California Meal and Rest Periods, for Now

California meal and rest period laws do not apply to drivers who work for motor carriers, according to two Federal District Courts which found that the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (FAAAA) exempts drivers from that type of regulation. (Dilts v. Penske Logistics, LLC, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 122421, *26 (S.D. Cal. Oct. 19, 2011); Esquivel et al. v. Vistar Corp. et al., Case No. 2:11-cv-07284 (C.D. Cal. Feb. 8, 2012).) That means, motor carries do not need to give their drivers breaks to eat or rest, other than what Department of Transportation regulations require. Essentially, California law cannot require employers to give drivers 30 minute, duty free meal periods or 10 minute, duty free breaks.

Exemption from California meal and break regulations gives employers greater flexibility and can lower costs significantly. Drivers who do not need to stop their trucks to eat or rest can work more efficiently for the company, unhindered by detailed California regulations. Frequent stops while driving routes can make administering those routes very difficult. The increased time and attention required almost always increases the cost of doing business. In addition, if an employer mistakenly violates California meal and rest period laws, the owed wages and penalties can add up to large sums of money, especially if the violations lead to a class action where many drivers claim owed wages for similar violations.

Drivers may also prefer the flexibility provided by the FAAAA exemption. Some employers have employees who drive routes that typically take about 10 or 11 hours to complete. Unfortunately for those drivers, sometimes traffic jams prevent them from getting back to their designated places of origin before 12 hours. They get paid for the entire time even if traffic extends their driving time, but California law requires a second meal period when the work day extends beyond 12 hours. The FAAAA exemption saves them from being required to pull over to take an unpaid meal period at the end of the day when they would rather be sitting at home.

What about driver comfort and humane treatment? Both the Dilts court and the Esquivel court say that the FAAAA requires the market place to care for those considerations. They use identical reasoning to support that conclusion and the conclusion that the FAAAA preempts California’s meal and rest period laws. In fact, Esquivel simply quoted large portions of the Dilts order.

The Dilts Court said that the FAAAA defines “motor carrier” broadly: “Plaintiffs, as Penske drivers/installers, operated commercial motor vehicles which transported property and conducted services related to that movement. That they performed other services in addition to the transportation of property, such as installing appliances, is not enough to exempt them from regulation under the FAAA Act.” It then said that the FAAAA exempts the motor carriers from providing meal and rest periods to drivers because it has a significant, indirect effect on route management, something the FAAAA language arguably prohibits: “Thus, the Court finds state regulation of details significantly impacting the routes or services of the carrier’s transportation itself preempted by the FAAA Act.” The Court also found that the Congress intended the FAAAA to preempt state laws even in cases where the state law only has an indirect regulatory effect on motor carriers, such as meal and rest period laws.

Both of the above cited cases are being appealed to the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeal. The Ninth Circuit could overturn the lower court rulings. Regardless, for the time being, the FAAA appears to exempt many truck drivers from breaks and meals required by California law.

S. Ward Heinrichs, Esq.
Employment Law Office of Ward Heinrichs
4565 Ruffner Street, Suite 207
San Diego, CA 92111
858-292-0792
(858) 408-7543 (fax)

Employment Law Office of WARD HEINRICHS

4565 Ruffner St. Suite 207 San Diego 92111

858-292-0792

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