Meal and Rest Break Preemption Petition

September 1, 2016

NTTC Carrier and Fleet Members:

Today, the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) announced that it had accepted the National Tank Truck Carriers’ petition to preempt the California meal break requirements for trucks transporting placardable quantities of hazardous materials.  An official notice will appear in tomorrow’s Federal Register, asking the public to provide comment on our preemption petition.  NTTC’s outside counsel developed our petition, which—if granted—will exempt loads of placardable hazardous materials from California’s meal and rest break requirements.  A copy of the petition is available online.

Federal hazardous materials law can preempt state, local, and other laws that interfere with the safe and speedy transportation of hazardous materials.  If an individual cannot follow both laws, the hazmat law preempts the other conflicting law.  Even if both laws can be followed, but following the other law presents an obstacle to following the hazmat law, the hazmat law also preempts the conflicting law.

The California meal break requirements force all drivers operating in California to take a 30-minute rest break after the first five hours on duty and again five hours later, whether the driver wishes to take this break or not.  These rules vary from the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMRs), which require that hazmat loads be transported to their destination without any unnecessary delay.  NTTC has challenged the California meal break requirements for three reasons:

  • The California meal and rest break requirements create unnecessary delays for delivering hazardous materials shipments while the drivers take the required breaks;
  • Because drivers must be “off-duty” while taking their meal and rest break, the California requirements force drivers to violate constant attendance regulatory requirements for certain types of hazmat; and
  • Requiring drivers to be “off-duty” while transporting hazmat subject to constant-attendance as part of their carrier’s security plan also conflicts with the HMRs because PHMSA requires carriers to comply with the security requirements they adopt in their plans.

PHMSA will accept comments on the NTTC’s petition for 45 days, after which it will immediately open a second round for rebutting issues raised during the first round of comments.  NTTC will be actively involved in both stages, demonstrating that the two laws cannot coexist.  After accepting comments, PHMSA will review all submissions, a process that normally takes roughly a year.  PHMSA may also choose to initiate its own, independent investigation.  Finally, after reviewing all relevant information, PHMSA will release a ruling that will either preempt the California law or state that both laws can be followed.  If PHMSA preempts the California law, the preemption will apply only for loads subject to the HMRs.  PHMSA’s preemption determination would not invalidate the meal and rest break requirements as applied to non-hazmat loads.

For more information contact:

Boyd Stephenson
Senior Vice President
(703) 838-1960