As a further positive development for interstate motor carriers in the aftermath of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) preemption decision announced in December 2018, the United States District Court for the Central District of California recently dismissed a truck driver’s claims that the motor carrier, U.S. Xpress, failed to provide a class of drivers with meal and rest periods, as required under California law. (Ayala v. U.S. Xpress Enterprises Inc. et al., case no. 5:16-cv-00137-GW(KKc)[Order Granting Partial Summary Judgment].)
In our prior publication, we reported that the FMCSA determined that California’s meal and rest break rules are preempted under 49 U.S.C. 31141, as applied to property-carrying commercial motor vehicle drivers. Specifically, California’s meal and rest break rules conflict with FMCSA’s hours of service regulations. The Federal Register publication read: “California may no longer enforce the MRB [meal and rest break] Rules with respect to drivers of property-carrying CMVs [commercial motor vehicles] subject to FMCSA’s HOS [hours of service] rules.”
Notably, Ayala was pending (filed in 2016) when the FMCSA announced its preemption determination in December 2018. The District Court, presided over by Hon. George H. Wu, applied the FMCSA order retroactively; however, the ruling was expressly conditioned on plaintiff’s right to seek reconsideration should the Ninth Circuit reverse or possibly stay the FMCSA’s decision on appeal.
There have been four different appeals filed with the Ninth Circuit challenging the FMCSA preemption order, including petitions filed by the Teamsters Union, California’s Attorney General, and the California Labor Commissioner’s Office. These appeals are in their early stages and rulings are not expected anytime soon. In the interim, interstate motor carriers operating in California have more ammunition to challenge pending and newly-filed wage and hour actions based on California’s meal and rest break rules.
Indeed, the impact of the FMCSA determination may soon also extend to other industries, including the passenger-carrying commercial motor vehicle operators. A similar petition was submitted to FMCSA by the American Bus Association seeking preemption under the same rationale as announced by the FMCSA in December 2018 with respect to property-carrying drivers. Currently, the FMCSA is seeking public comment on the issue, with a closing date of June 10, 2019.