Group Letter to FMCSA Opposing Trucking Industry Preemption Petition

Thursday, January 3, 2019

October 29, 2018

Administrator Ray Martinez
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE
Washington, DC 20590-0001

Re: Groups Urge Rejection of Petition FMCSA-2018-0304 to Preempt California Meal and Rest Break Rules

Dear Administrator Martinez:

The American Trucking Association (ATA) has petitioned the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to preempt California’s longstanding meal and rest break laws. We strongly urge you to reject this petition.

For years, the trucking industry has been trying to weaken or eliminate safety laws that are designed to make sure truck drivers get enough rest. This is despite the fact that driver fatigue is currently a significant factor in many large truck crashes,[1] which result in more than 4,000 deaths and 100,000 injuries every year.[2] The crash that critically injured comedian Tracy Morgan and killed his friend occurred after their vehicle was hit from behind by a Wal-Mart truck driver who had not slept for more than 24 hours.

Providing safe working conditions for commercial drivers and remedies in the event of an accident, injury or fatality are among the most basic and traditional of state functions. States must have leeway to determine what safety rules make sense for their own commercial drivers, in addition to meeting minimum federal requirements. Indeed, 20 states have meal and rest break provisions similar to California’s. This petition asks the FMCSA to prevent one state from having authority in this area. It is an egregious attack on the laws of one particular state and on states’ rights generally.

Moreover, over the years, the FMCSA has repeatedly rejected such intrusions into state authority now requested by the ATA. In 2008, the agency reviewed and rejected a similar petition, noting that “[Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations] have for decades required carriers and drivers to comply with all of the laws, ordinances, and regulations of the jurisdiction where they operate.”[3] Later, the Department of Transportation filed an amicus brief at the invitation of the 9th Circuit, arguing strongly that state meal and rest break laws like California’s exist pursuant to “traditional state police power” and should not be preempted.[4]

For almost two decades, the California meal and rest law has protected workers and the general public from workplace and highway accidents, injuries, and deaths. As our roads become more and more dangerous, the last thing the FMCSA should do is take action that would lead to more sleep-deprived drivers on the roads. We strongly urge you to reject this petition.

Please contact Joanne Doroshow at the Center for Justice & Democracy for more information. [email protected]  Thank you.


Very sincerely,

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety


American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)

Alliance for Justice

California Employment Lawyers Association

California Labor Federation ALF-CIO


California Teamsters Public Affairs Council

Center for Auto Safety

Center for Justice & Democracy

Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)

Consumer Action

Consumer Federation of America

Consumer Federation of California

Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety


Equal Rights Advocates

Essential Information

Impact Fund


National Association of Consumer Advocates

National Consumers League

National Employment Law Project

National Employment Lawyers Association

National Employment Lawyers Association- New York Affiliate

NY Public Interest Research Group

Public Citizen

Public Justice

Public Justice Center

Service Employees International Union

Stone and Holt Weeks Foundation

Sylvia Bingham Fund

Texas Watch

UFCW Western States Council


Western Center on Law & Poverty

Working Partnerships USA

Workplace Fairness

[1] National Transportation Safety Board, Factors that Affect Fatigue in Heavy Trucking Accidents, Volume 1: Analysis, (Jan.1995), available at

[2] Fed. Motor Carrier Safety Admin., Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts 2016, “table 1: Large Truck Fatal Crash Statistics, 1975-2016” (May 2018); available at

[3]73 FR 79204-01, 2008 WL 5351180(F.R.).

[4]Dilts v. Penske Logistics, Inc., No. 12-55705 (9th Cir. 2014).

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