Federal DOT Preempts Meal, Rest Breaks Laws for Hazardous Materials Drivers

Nov 13 2018 - Meal and Rest Break - Erika Pickles

California’s meal and rest break laws for all hazardous materials motor vehicle drivers conflict with federal rules.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) recently issued a Notice of Administrative Determination of Preemption finding, stating that the Federal Hazardous Material Transportation Law and the Hazardous Materials Regulations preempt California meal and rest break laws for all hazardous materials motor vehicle drivers.

As California employers know, employees in California are entitled to a 30-minute off-duty meal break for shifts greater than five hours, and a second 30-minute meal break for shifts over 10 hours. In addition, employees are entitled to a 10-minute off-duty rest break for every four hours worked or major fraction thereof.

The PHMSA concluded that California’s meal and rest break requirements conflict with the federal laws governing drivers transporting hazardous materials.

The PHMSA made the following rulings:

  • California’s meal and rest break requirements create an unnecessary delay in the transportation of hazardous materials;
  • California’s meal and rest break requirements are also preempted with respect to drivers of motor vehicles that are transporting Division 1.1, 1.2, or 1.3 explosive material and are subject to the attendance requirements of 49 C.F.R. 397.5(a) because it is not possible for a motor carrier’s driver to comply with the off-duty requirement of the California rule and the federal attendance requirement; and
  • California’s meal and rest break requirements are preempted as motor carriers that are required to file a security plan under 49 C.F.R. 172.800 and who have filed security plans requiring constant attendance of hazardous materials.

Under federal law, any party aggrieved by the PHMSA’s determination has 20 days from the date the determination was filed (September 21, 2018) to file a petition for reconsideration, and 60 days to file a request for judicial review.

Employers subject to the Federal Hazardous Material Transportation Law and the Hazardous Materials Regulations should monitor the status of this determination and any potential requests for judicial review, as well as consult legal counsel with questions about compliance.

Erika Pickles, Employment Law Counsel/HR Adviser

CalChamber members can view more information on California’s Meal and Rest Break Requirements in the HR Library. Not a member? See how CalChamber can help you.

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