TRALA Asks Court for Rehearing of CA Meal Breaks Case
TRALA is asking the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit for a rehearing of a case challenging California's state-mandated meal and rest break laws. This case has significant impacts on both the interstate and intrastate trucking operations of truck lessors and motor carriers. The Appellate Court on July 9, 2014 overturned an earlier District Court decision in the case of Dilts v. Penske Logistics, ruling that California law governing state meal and rest break requirements is not preempted by a federal law which prohibits states from enacting measures that affect the prices, routes, or services of motor carriers. TRALA feels that the Court relied too heavily on the opinion of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) stance that the California law should not be preempted, even though the USDOT's own analysis does concede that this type of law should be preempted because of its impact on interstate trucking operations. TRALA stated this belief to the Court in an amicus brief that was filed on August 18 in support of Penske Logistics' request for a rehearing.
In its previous ruling, the Court clearly relied heavily on the opinion of the USDOT, as evidenced by its statement in the conclusion that "We find it particularly persuasive that the [DOT], which has great familiarity with transportation regulations, sees no evidence that California's meal and rest break laws will significantly affect the prices, routes, or services of motor carriers." Yet a careful review of the ruling finds that the Court focused too much on intrastate operations, and not interstate operations. Since the USDOT stated in its brief that "the preemptive analysis might be substantially different if California applied the law to drivers who cross state lines," TRALA believes that a rehearing is necessary so that the Court can further analyze how state meal break laws will negatively affect both intrastate and interstate trucking operations.
TRALA is concerned that if California's meal break law (which generally requires a 30 minute paid meal break to be taken immediately after five hours of work have elapsed) is not preempted, its members could face difficulties in repositioning vehicles from one location to the other, or in dispatching emergency roadside personnel to service broken down vehicles in the manner that they always have. Additionally, safety is a concern because a driver could be forced to pull over to take a rest break at a government-mandated time, even though legal truck parking may not be available. This would force the deployment of additional drivers, or taking less than optimal routes which clearly impacts prices, routes, and services. This situation would be compounded if truck lessors and motor carriers are forced to comply with a patchwork of various state meal break laws while engaged in interstate commerce.
TRALA's brief also makes the case that since the FAAAA law should preempt interstate operations, it should also preempt the California law for intrastate operations, in order to create a level playing field for interstate and intrastate carriers. That precedent was set by the First Circuit Court in its ruling on New Hampshire Motor Transport Association v Rowe, when the Court stated "if a state law is preempted as to one carrier, it must be preempted as to all carriers."