Today, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (“PHMSA”) of the U.S. Department of Transportation released its determination, in response to a preemption application by the National Tank Truck Carriers, Inc. (“NTTC”) and authored by the Scopelitis Law Firm, that California’s meal and rest break requirements are preempted with respect to all drivers of motor vehicles transporting hazardous materials (whether interstate or intrastate). PHMSA found that California’s meal and rest break laws create unnecessary delay in the transportation of hazardous materials in conflict with provisions of the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act. PHMSA also found the California’s laws preempted on additional grounds as to specific subsets of hazmat drivers.
Although PHMSA’s determination does not opine on whether California’s provisions are covered by the preemption provision of the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994, the determination recognizes the impact meal and rest break laws have on delaying motor carrier service. Standing alone, the decision should be beneficial in mitigating the explosion of class action claims centered on violations of California’s meal and rest break laws in particular and likely similar laws in other states. The determination will be published in the Federal Register tomorrow and effective as of that date. If you have questions regarding the PHMSA determination contact Greg Feary, Jim Hanson, or Prasad Sharma.