Do You Have Drivers Going to California? The Break Laws Have Changed

Near the end of 2018, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) decided that the federal law regarding mandatory breaks should overrule California’s laws. In California, drivers, just like other non-exempt workers) were required to take a thirty-minute break during every shift longer than five hours and then take a ten-minute break every four hours. These breaks were also considered paid time. The federal law just stipulates a thirty-minute break.

Why were more (and paid) breaks better?

Driving is exhausting, and the mental fatigue caused by hours of driving is well-documented. Even if a driver stops for five minutes and walks around to get a bottle of water or a coffee, that can partially “restart the clock” and make drivers more aware.

When conscientious companies or state regulations require companies to pay workers for their time, even the time taking mandatory breaks, these short pauses become a way to improve health and safety. If drivers have to take the breaks and don’t get paid, instead they become stressful obligations that cost them money and make them miss deadlines. Deadlines, traffic, and the standard of paying per mile instead of a day’s work all stack up against the obligation to follow the law. Sometimes the obligations win, and drivers don’t take the breaks; this is dangerous for everyone.

So why did the FMCSA rule semi-truck drivers exempt?

According to FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez, “California’s extra rules reduce productivity and are a drag on the economy.” That rationale makes the decision more contentious. Companies have to care about the bottom line and government organizations have to care about the economy. But health and safety for truck drivers should be weighed just as heavily.

Fortunately, there were some safety concerns in the mix. Drivers crossing into the state from Oregon were more likely to get in a collision due to fewer rest stops and safe places to stop. By overruling California’s decision, interstate drivers are less likely to crowd each other out or park in dangerous roadside spots.

Ultimately, you and your company have to create a policy that prioritizes both route completion and driver safety. It isn’t an easy task, so go to J.E.B. Insurance Services, LLC here to read more about changing laws and safety trends in the industry. We provide commercial truck insurance in the states of Florida, Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska.

David Ott

David Ott