GOP pushes to prohibit states from requiring paid trucker breaks

States would be prohibited from requiring truck drivers to receive paid meal and rest breaks under an aviation funding bill that is scheduled to be considered by lawmakers in the House this week. 

The Federal Aviation Administration measure unveiled by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last week including language that would prohibit states from enacting or enforcing a "law, regulation, or other provision" that would require truckers to be paid for meal and rest breaks beyond what federal law currently requires. 

Trucking groups have said the prohibition would negatively affect drivers' wages. 

"What does #Aviation have 2 do with #TruckDrivers Wages? NO! to FAA Re-Auth Section 611 pg 256-258 #GOP #DEMS," the REAL Women in Trucking group tweeted on Monday.  

The provision about truck driver scheduling regulations was crafted in response to a California court ruling that said states can impose their own laws regarding meal and rest breaks for drivers. The language was inserted into the FAA bill after it was removed from an earlier highway funding bill that was passed by lawmakers last year. 

Trucking companies have argued that allowing states to make their own scheduling rules "jeopardizes the national uniformity and market-driven efficiency Congress sought to promote when it deregulated the trucking industry. 

"Congress recognized that, even after largely deregulating the trucking industry at the federal level, “[t]he sheer diversity of [state] regulatory schemes [remained] a huge problem for national and regional carriers attempting to conduct a standard way of doing business," the American Trucking Association said in a brief that was filed with the California court in 2015.

Truck driver advocates have said that federal rules for meal and rest breaks are insufficient. 

"The subsection threatens highway safety by not compensating drivers for the time they spend working, which includes routine operations like truck inspections, addressing maintenance issues – and most importantly waiting to be loaded or unloaded," the OwnerOperator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) said in a letter to lawmakers when the provision to prohibit states from requiring paid rest breaks was being considered in the highway bill. 

"This language would ensure that drivers are only compensated when the wheels of the truck are moving, even though many drivers spend the equivalent of 4-6 weeks each year waiting to be loaded or unloaded," the group said then. "This unpaid time creates undue pressure incentivizing drivers to drive farther and faster in order to remain economically viable." 

The truck operator group said the language that is now inserted into the FAA bill would "unravel mandated fair-pay for drivers and would empower large carriers to further reduce driver wages.  

"It would also gut the ability for states to address critical items like payment for detention time," the group said.

The House Transportation Committee is scheduled to hold an initial hearing on the FAA bill on Wednesday.