The Aviation, Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization Act, which seeks to radically transform the FAA and the American aviation landscape, is complicated by several controversial provisions related to the trucking industry as well as a possible correction to a “glitch” in the wording of another trucking-related provision from the 2016 appropriations bill on hours of service rules.
First, the FAA bill has been championed as one avenue of correcting what many view as a mistake in the statutory language pertaining to the hours-of-service rules in the fiscal 2015 funding law. As previously reported by this commentator, this language is susceptible to an interpretation that if regulators are unable to prove the efficacy of the 2013 restart rules, then the entire 34 hour restart provision could be at risk. If the restart rule is eliminated, then there would likely be a rolling recap of weekly work limits of 60 hours in seven days and 70 hours in eight days. We will continue to monitor the process of the amendment of this section. Until then, companies and drivers may continue to operate under the pre-2013 rules regarding the 34 hour restart.
Secondly, the FAA bill includes other trucking-relevant clauses embodied, most importantly, in Section 611. The language of Section 611 states:
A State…may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision…prohibiting employees whose hours of service are subject to [federal] regulation…from working to the full extent permitted…or imposing any additional obligations on motor carriers…
A State…may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision…that requires a motor carrier that compensates employees on a piece-rate basis to pay those employees separate or additional compensation, provided that the motor carrier pays the employee a total sum that when divided by the total number of hours worked during the corresponding work period is equal to or greater than the applicable hourly minimum wage of the State…
This language is a strike back by certain trucking lobbying groups against a 2014 ruling by the U.S. Ninth Circuit of Appeals, finding that a California law requiring certain trucker rest and meal breaks did not violate the 1994 FAA Authorization Act. Section 611 would not affect any federal regulation, other than affirming that states and localities could not impose separate obligations of their own, which may in some cases conflict with those of the federal government. For example, consider the confusion that could be caused for drivers if their hours-of-service rules changed simply by driving across the California-Arizona border? Would the rules change upon his departure or arrival? Would it matter what the load was and/or where he or she was going? These are questions that could arise as more and more states and municipalities step in and attempt to regulate trucking where they feel there is a void.
Since the introduction of Section 611, the FAA bill has been put on hold and may not be included in a short term extension of the current FAA authorization. We will continue to monitor the progress of the FAA bill going forward, and will keep you informed as to the fate of Section 611, the hours-of-service fix, as well as monitor for any major local trucking rules changes in the event of the failure of Section 611.
This article was written by Andrew Laquet associate attorney at Roberts Perryman PC. Andrew’s focuses his practice on transportation, insurance defense and complex litigation.
Roberts Perryman has been a leader in transportation defense for over 50 years with offices in St. Louis and Springfield, MO and Belleville, IL. http://www.robertsperryman.com