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  • Henry Seaton

Senate panel approves meal, rest break preemption

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on June 29 approved a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorization bill (S. 1405) after adopting an amendment to bar states from regulating meal and rest breaks applicable to employees subject to the hours-of-service regulations. The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Nebraska), is similar to a measure that was approved last year by the House Appropriations Committee. The latter provision was not included in either the short-term funding package in December or the continuing appropriations act that Congress enacted this spring.

A similar provision also was included in the House version of the same FAA bill in the last Congress. One reason the provision keeps appearing in FAA legislation is that it clarifies a provision in the FAA Authorization Act of 1994 that preempted state regulation of motor carrier rates, routes and services.

A broader measure also was passed by the House in late 2015 as an amendment to what would become the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, but the so-called Denham amendment -- for sponsor Rep. Jeff Denham (R-California) -- was not included in the final version of the FAST Act. One reason was that the Denham amendment also would have barred state regulation of driver pay as long as the driver received at least the equivalent of minimum wage. That measure proved too controversial, even within the trucking industry. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association objected that the legislation would bar states from requiring detention pay.

The next step for the FAA bill will be consideration by the full Senate.

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