House and Senate conferees late yesterday dropped an amendment from a five-year Federal Aviation Administration funding bill that would have federally pre-empted state rules requiring truckers to pay drivers for meal and rest times, dealing yet another setback to big trucking's efforts to override states' authority over the contentious issue.
The so-called Denham Amendment, named after Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), who introduced the measure, would have blocked 22 states with rules governing meal and rest pay for drivers from regulating drivers operating in interstate commerce. The conferees' decision marks the second time in two years that the amendment failed to be included in an FAA re-authorization bill. The language also failed to survive in various legislative forms in 2015, 2017 and, most recently, a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill that President Trump signed into law in March.
The American Trucking Associations (ATA), which supported the amendment, said it follows the intent set forth by Congress in 1994 when it pre-empted state economic regulation of trucking. Congress intended in the statute that the industry be governed by one set of federal rest and meal break rules, according to supporters of the amendment. Lawmakers did not intend for carriers to change their practices depending on what state their drivers are in. ATA did not have any public comment on yesterday's conferees' action.
Opponents, which included the Teamsters union and the Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), which represents owner-operators and micro-fleets, said the measure would go well beyond driver meal and rest times and overturn states' power to implement labor law. The 1994 law did not pre-empt states from regulating labor matters, they said.
The measure contains specific wording that "effectively provides motor carriers with a blanket federal preemption for any issue that a state might want to address to improve the lives of employee truck drivers," OOIDA said in a statement.
Under federal law, drivers must stop for at least 30 minutes within the first 8 hours of driving. OOIDA has requested that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the agency which ovsrsee truck safety, do away with that language as part of the agency's pending review of its driver hours-of-service rules. Instead, drivers should be allowed to take rest breaks once per 14-hour duty period for up to three consecutive hours as long as the driver is off-duty. OOIDA has long contended that the
30-minute break requirement is arbitrary, and that drivers should be free to pull off the road when they feel tired, not when the government tells them to.
The FAA reauthorization bill, H.R. 302, was expected to be voted on by the House today, at which time it would go to the Senate for its vote.