The United States House of Representatives recently passed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill that includes an amendment that restricts a state’s ability to set its own rules on meal breaks and other shifts in hours of service for tractor-trailer drivers (What the Denham amendment means for the trucking industry). The American Trucking Association (ATA) supported the amendment because they thought it would help streamline interstate commerce by federalizing hours-of-service rules, but truck drivers believe the amendment will prevent them from receiving necessary rest breaks and the wages they deserve.
The amendment supersedes state laws regulating meal and rest breaks and requires all truck drivers to follow the Department of Transportation’s hours of service laws:
- Truck drivers can work longer hours without taking breaks as required by some states
- Under federal law, drivers must take 30-minute breaks every eight hours, but under this amendment, they may not be paid during their breaks
Because the amendment preempts state hours-of-service laws, productivity may rise because drivers are able to make more shipments on time. However, safety may be compromised because drivers will be discouraged from taking breaks because they are unpaid.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) sent a letter to House members encouraging them to reject the amendment for safety reasons. “The Denham amendment would roll back guaranteed meal and rest breaks for drivers, eroding a key safeguard against fatigue, crashes and vehicular deaths,” Pelosi wrote. “This wrongheaded amendment denies truck drivers the voluntary lunch or rest break that they are guaranteed in more than 20 states by state law, which in many cases have been on the books for decades.”
Based on the current situation in Washington, it is not surprising that the House would pass a law that benefits big business. Hopefully, the Senate will do a better job of ensuring the safety of American motorists and protecting the rights of tractor-trailer drivers.
If you have been injured in an accident with a tractor-trailer, please contact Shamberg, Johnson & Bergman for a free consultation. We only receive a fee in the event of a successful resolution of your case.