TRALA Urges U.S. Supreme Court to Review CA Meal Break Mandates Case
TRALA is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case that is of national importance to the trucking industry. An amicus brief was filed by TRALA in the case of Penske Logistics and Penske Truck Leasing v. Mickey Lee Dilts et. al in support of the Penske petition, which is seeking the U.S. Supreme Court's review of a flawed ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. That court held that California meal and rest break requirements are not preempted by a federal law which prohibits states from enacting measures that relate to the prices, routes, or services of motor carriers. This stance by the Appellate Court was a reversal of a decision by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, which had ruled that California's meal break law (which generally requires a 30 minute paid meal break for every five hours worked) is preempted by the federal law in question, the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (FAAAA).
The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a ruling on July 9, 2014 in which they stated that "California's meal and rest break laws plainly are not the sorts of laws 'related to' prices, routes, or services that Congress intended to preempt. They do not set prices, mandate or prohibit certain routes, or tell motor carriers what services they may or may not provide, either directly or indirectly." The Court pointed out that the California meal break law is broad and applies to almost all employers in California. The Court went on to state that "And while motor carriers may have to take into account the meal and rest break requirements when allocating resources and scheduling routes-just as they must take into account state wage laws... or speed limits and weight restrictions...-the laws do not 'bind' motor carriers to specific prices, routes, or services."
However, TRALA's brief details how the meal break laws clearly relate to prices, routes, and services, since a truck driver simply cannot pull over to the side of the highway and park. The brief explains, "California's Mandatory Break Rules necessarily impact routes because they require a driver to depart from a planned route, drive to an appropriate stopping area, and take the meal or rest break, before driving back to the planned route. This direct requirement to alter a route brings the Mandatory Break Rules within the broad sweep of the FAAAA's preemption provision."
Motor carriers are not the only companies in the broader trucking industry who have their prices, routes, or services impacted by the strict meal break mandates. TRALA's renting and leasing company members often have to reposition lease and rental vehicles across long distances, and some of them have tow and emergency roadside service trucks that could be prevented from serving a customer in need during a dangerous situation if these meal break mandates are strictly enforced.
TRALA's brief also describes the appellate court's reliance on flawed legal principles, such as the "presumption against preemption." The brief points out that the U.S. Supreme Court has overruled the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on such legal principles before, and suggests it should do so again with this case, by ruling that California's mandatory break rules do relate to the prices, routes, and services of motor carriers, and should thus be preempted by the FAAAA law.