Man completing a safety inspection on a truck representing a new federal preemption waiver

FedEx Corp. has raised concerns over potential financial strains and safety implications if the Biden administration greenlights waivers regarding truck driver meal and rest breaks in California and Washington. In its comments submitted to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), FedEx emphasized the anticipated rise in costs for both its operations and those of its competitors. FedEx also highlighted concerns about the FMCSA ceding its preemption authority over the states’ meal and rest break laws.

The waivers, if approved, would subject interstate carriers to the stricter state regulations, prompting FedEx to assert that such a move would disrupt operations and escalate expenses. Clement Klank, Corporate Vice President at FedEx, highlighted the need for route revisions, compensation adjustments, and policy changes. He projected multimillion-dollar increases in labor expenses annually.

Moreover, Klank stressed the potential adverse effects on driver fatigue and morale. He noted that extended workdays and increased time away from home caused by mandatory breaks could contribute to these concerns. California and Washington mandate meal breaks and rest periods for truck drivers. This contrasts with federal regulations, which prescribe breaks after specific driving hours rather than on-duty time.

The FMCSA’s consideration of waiver requests stems from Trump-era decisions. These determined that federal hours-of-service rules preempted meal and rest break laws in California and Washington for interstate trucking. However, subsequent petitions filed by entities including the Teamsters union, truck safety advocates, and the state of California prompted reevaluation.

Opposition to Waivers: Advocating for Stakeholder Responsibility

Opponents of the waivers argue against shifting safety concerns onto drivers. They believe stakeholders should take responsibility to address issues like truck parking shortages. The Truck Safety Coalition rebuffed assertions of burdens on commerce. They stressed the importance of covering safety costs historically externalized.With the waiver petitions under review, the trucking industry awaits a decision. This decision could significantly impact operations, costs, and safety standards. The debate underscores the intricate balance between regulatory compliance, operational efficiency, and road safety in the transportation sector.