I own a trucking company and my drivers are covered by U.S. Department of Transportation regulations. I know they are not covered by California’s overtime laws. I need to know if these drivers are covered by California’s rules regarding meal and rest breaks.
Truck drivers engaged in interstate transportation, and driving vehicles of a certain size are subject to the federal government’s rules provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act (FMCSA).
Generally speaking, the vehicles must transport goods across state lines, or transport goods that have crossed state lines, and the vehicles must have a gross weight in excess of 10,001 pounds. The exact definitions can be found in the FMCSA.
In 2021, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed that the federal rules supersede California’s overtime laws for interstate truck drivers (International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 2785 v. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 986 F. 3d 841 (2021)).
Later that same year, a truck driver in California sued his employer on a number of theories, including failure to provide meal and rest breaks. A California Court of Appeal overruled the trial court, held that the FMCSA supersedes California’s meal and rest break laws, and dismissed the employee’s claims (Espinoza v. Hepta Run, Inc., 74 Cal App 5th 44, (2022)).
As a result of these decisions, the law is clear that if a truck driver is subject to the FMCSA, that driver is not subject to the California overtime, or meal and rest break laws.
To confirm that your drivers are subject to the FMCSA, we recommend consulting with your company’s legal counsel.
Column based on questions asked by callers on the Labor Law Helpline, a service to California Chamber of Commerce preferred and executive members. For expert explanations of labor laws and Cal/OSHA regulations, not legal counsel for specific situations, call (800) 348-2262 or submit your question at www.hrcalifornia.com.