The U.S. Chamber of Commerce today threw the weight of the nation's largest business trade group behind language in a House bill to re-authorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) bill that would federally pre-empt state laws that require commercial truck drivers operating in interstate commerce to be paid for meal and rest times.
In a letter, Suzanne Clark, senior executive vice president at the Chamber, said the provision would restore Congress' intent when it pre-empted state economic regulation in 1994 and established "national uniformity" for motor carriers of property. The views of the Chamber, which has about 3 million members, echo those of the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the trade group representing mostly large fleets. ATA has pushed aggressively for the amendment for several years, and has enlisted, among others, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) to introduce the language. Denham has tried unsuccessfully several times to get the pre-emption language inserted in various bills.
Smaller truckers and the Teamsters union are fighting the amendment, as they have done in the past. They claimed the 1994 law pre-empted economic regulation of the states, not their power to regulate labor matters. They also warn that should the provision become law, it would gut any role the states have in protecting drivers from not getting paid for time not spent driving.
Debate over the five-year FAA re-authorization bill began today on the House floor. Neither Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, nor Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) who chairs the House Aviation Subcommittee, mentioned the trucking language in their respective opening remarks on the floor.