U.S. Gov’t: FAAAA Does Not Preempt CA Meal and Rest Break Law

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The federal government filed nearly-identical amicus curiae briefs in two cases pending before the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit, arguing that the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (“FAAAA”) does not preempt California’s meal and rest break law. See United States Amicus Brief, Dilts v. Penske Logistics, LLC, 9th Cir., No. 12-55705 (available here) and United States Amicus Brief, Campbell v. Vitran Express, 9th Cir., No. 12-56250 (available here). At issue is an FAAAA provision which provides that a state “may not enact or enforce a law . . . related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier . . . with respect to the transportation of property.” 49 U.S.C. § 14501(c)(1).

The plaintiffs, delivery drivers for Penske Logistics LLC and Vitran Express, had appealed their respective district court orders holding that the FAAAA preempted their California meal and rest break claims. The Ninth Circuit invited attorneys from the Department of Transportation, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and the Department of Justice to state their views on the preemption issue. In amicus briefs filed on February 18, 2014, the government argued that California’s meal and rest break law has no significant effect on motor carrier prices, routes, or services, taking the position that it is “squarely within the states’ traditional power to regulate the employment relationship and to protect worker health and safety. Moreover, it is a law of longstanding, general applicability and does not reflect any state effort to regulate motor carriers directly.” Vitran Amicus Brief at 10-11.

The government further argued that California’s meal and rest break law does not conflict with and is not otherwise preempted by federal regulations because it does not specifically address commercial motor vehicle safety and is not incompatible with federal safety standards. Moreover, because plaintiffs were short-haul commercial drivers operating exclusively in intrastate commerce, federal regulations governing the number of hours a commercial motor vehicle carrier may drive without a break were inapplicable and not in conflict with state law. Finally, the government argued that its views on preemption should be accorded deference.

Oral argument in both cases is set for March 3, 2014.