FMCSA Update: California Yields to Preemption Determination

Following the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s determination in December of last year that federal law preempts California’s meal and rest break rules, many trucking companies are trying to determine how this is going to affect them with the California courts.  Los Angeles Superior Court became the first state court in California to apply the determination to armored truck driver claims for meal and break rules in the state; decided in favor of the Federal Rules.

Let’s take a closer look at what the preemption determination is and how trucking companies should proceed.

How to Proceed with This Ruling

 The recent court orders are good news for trucking businesses with drivers subject to federal rules, but these companies should still be concerned about the state objectives on enforcing the meal and break rules. Trucking companies can still be hit with claims from drivers, and their opportunistic attorneys when it comes to rest and meal breaks. Having a knowledgeable commercial truck insurance broker to consult with is an added avenue of defense.

Preemption Determination

The FMCSA decided in December of 2018 that federal transportation law preempts (takes priority over) California’s meal and rest break rules when a driver is subject to federal hours-of-service requirements. Essentially, what this means is that California’s laws were looked at as incompatible with the federal regulations, which is causing a burden on interstate commerce.

Applying the FMCSA’s Rules

In May of this year, a district court in California ruled on the issue and dismissed a claim made for truck drivers meal and rest breaks. The court made it known that it doesn’t have the authority to enforce the regulations around meal and rest breaks. Following that ruling, the Los Angeles Superior Court, as mentioned above, made its decision surrounding armored truck drivers’ meal and rest break claims, determining that federal rules governing the hours of service for both long- and short-haul drivers preempt (take priority over) the state rules in California.

The court ruled that it was “obligated to recognize the supremacy of federal law under the United States Constitution and the oath of judicial office”. The court also determined that it has no choice “but to respect and enforce the FMCSA Administration’s preemption determination without trying to second-guess its legal or policy correctness.”

This issue will be continually evolving. Keep an eye out for future blogs with updates on this ruling.

About Western Truck Insurance Services

Western Truck Insurance Services is a commercial truck insurance agency with roots dating back to 1954. We have evolved into a highly respected, professionally managed, truck and transportation insurance brokerage. The hallmark of our organization is our desire to provide unparalleled service. We go way beyond what you expect to receive from an insurance brokerage. Equipped with state of the art automation, Western Truck Insurance can provide you with lightning fast truck insurance quotes, customer service, Insurance certificates, and coverage changes.

FMCSA Establishes Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse for Commercial Drivers

The Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCSA) has recently announced it will be establishing the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, a new database that will include information related to violations of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and its controlled substances and alcohol testing program.

Currently, the Clearinghouse rule requires FMCSA-regulated employers, Medical Review Officers (MROs), Substance Abuse Professionals (SAPs), consortia/third-party administrators (C/TPA), and other service agents to report to the Clearinghouse information that’s notable in violations of the drug and alcohol regulations. These are specific to regulations in 49 Code of Federal Regulations, parts 40 and 382 by prospective employees as well as current employees.

What’s Required and What’s Expected

The main issue with the Clearinghouse is that it’s trying to help trucking companies be prevented from hiring employees who have been prohibited in the past or are currently prohibited from operating a commercial vehicle based on DOT drug and alcohol program violations. If trucking companies violate these terms and regulations it can spell trouble for them legally and in business.

That’s why having a commercial truck insurance plan in place to protect against liabilities, such as hiring employees with checkered pasts, is vital to keep operations running smoothly and above board.

Pre-Employment Checks

Companies will have to check in with the Clearinghouse for all new hires to see if they have any drug and alcohol violations that keep them from performing safety-sensitive functions. This means that the driver in question must be registered with the Clearinghouse as well.

The Clearinghouse will make sure to provide FMCSA and employers the important tools to identify drivers who are prohibited from operating these vehicles, so as to avoid this kind of issue. Having a prohibited driver hired on can create not only conflicts from a regulatory standpoint but can also create a number of risks for the road, putting the safety and overall well-being of others out there in the driver’s hands.

The Clearinghouse will also help to ensure that drivers receive the required evaluation and treatment before operating a CMV on public roads. More specifically, information maintained in the Clearinghouse will enable employers in the trucking industry to spot drivers who commit a drug or alcohol program violation while working for one employer, but who fail to inform another employer (such as a contractor would).

Records related to any drug and alcohol program violations will be kept in the Clearinghouse for five years, or until the driver in question has completed the return-to-duty process.

About Western Truck Insurance Services

Western Truck Insurance Services is a commercial truck insurance agency with roots dating back to 1954. We have evolved into a highly respected, professionally managed, truck and transportation insurance brokerage. The hallmark of our organization is our desire to provide unparalleled service. We go way beyond what you expect to receive from an insurance brokerage. Equipped with state of the art automation, Western Truck Insurance can provide you with lightning fast truck insurance quotes, customer service, Insurance certificates, and coverage changes.

Will California Require Truck Drivers to Take Unpaid Rest Breaks?

In December of 2018, a ruling from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) stated that California trucking companies, while still requiring their employees to take rest breaks, are exempt from providing truck drivers paid rest. The ruling has been controversial to say the least and has already been set up to be challenged in court. Teamsters have already sued over the decision and petitions have been signed to reverse the ruling.

According to the FMCSA, there have been more crashes involving trucks in the northern California area, heading into Oregon. This has been due, in part, to a decline in parking. If a trucking professional can’t park and take a break, they simply keep on driving. This is a reason why it’s important for commercial truck insurance to be in place to protect drivers, their trucks and their companies.

The FMCSA holds the position that paid rest breaks reduce productivity, so not paying for them will motivate drivers to be more efficient in their work. Teamsters unions, on the other hand, are arguing that federal laws can’t overrule California’s state labor laws. Another argument from teamsters is that not having breaks covered will actually motivate drivers to forgo taking the right amount of rest while they are behind the wheel, causing them to decline in health, focus and safety.

Currently, the American Trucking Association has stated that it wants to do away with rest breaks altogether, promoting the idea that rest breaks would be bad for corporations. But attorneys for those who are suing say that the ATA’s arguments related to loss of productivity are not really supported.

In California, state labor laws stipulate specify that workers should get a 30-minute meal break for shifts longer than five hours and also that transportation workers rest for 10 minutes every four hours. The U.S. Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit in California ruled that carriers in the state must make sure that truck drivers get the right amount of rest and meal breaks.

The ATA has appealed to Congress before when it comes to these rulings, pleading over and over that rest breaks are bad for business. They’ve even gone as far as looking for support from the Trump Administration. The only question now is how will this all play out in court? Will it be a long, drawn-out fight?


About Western Truck Insurance Services

Western Truck Insurance Services is a commercial truck insurance agency with roots dating back to 1954. We have evolved into a highly respected, professionally managed, truck and transportation insurance brokerage. The hallmark of our organization is our desire to provide unparalleled service. We go way beyond what you expect to receive from an insurance brokerage. Equipped with state of the art automation, Western Truck Insurance can provide you with lightning fast truck insurance quotes, customer service, Insurance certificates and coverage changes.

Auto-Issued DOT Numbers- What We’ve Seen and What You Can Do

We’ve been seeing something a little strange lately here at Western Truck Insurance Services and we wanted to keep all of our loyal clients informed. We haven’t seen much information about this online, but it is something that several clients have experienced. If you’re having problems with this, or with anything else relating to your insurance, give us a call and we’ll happily help you sort things out.

Last year all clients with a California MCP # only were automatically issued a DOT #. We believe that the California DMV forwarded the information to the FMCSA for the applications. The problem is, much of this information was outdated. We had clients receiving their DOT # with an incorrect address, old registration information, etc. These clients never asked for or applied for this number. It was automatically issued to them. The California DMV is trying to transition to using DOT #s and provided this information to the FMCSA from their last update, but if things changed during the year, the information was outdated.

What Can Be Done?

If this happened to you, or happens to you in the future, what can you do? If you have insurance through Western Truck Insurance Services, get in touch with us and we’ll help you sort things out. This is what we’re suggesting:

  • Go online and check your information. This would typically be at the FMCSA website (https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/registration). You can also call them at 800-832-5660.
  • Order your PIN for future updates. This allows you to update online in the future.
  • Print the MCS 150 page.
  • Call your insurance agent and discuss how to fill everything out properly. This is very important. Make sure things are filled out correctly to avoid future problems down the road. Please call us first!
  • Fax/mail in the documentation and keep a copy for yourself.
  • This is the first time we’ve seen something like this happen, but as the transition goes through, we’ll be here to help you with this and all of your other insurance needs. Get in touch anytime you have a question. We’re here to help you ‘Travel with Care’.

Will the Changes to Freight Broker Requirements Impact You?

Brokers and freight forwarders play a valuable role in the transportation industry often acting as the go between for carriers and consumers. They match willing trucks with loads that need hauling and help get goods from one end of the country to the other. Since those doing the shipping are often unaware of the intricacies and difficulties involved in transportation, brokers and freight forwarders save carriers a lot of trouble by helping ensure everything is ready to go. As any busy trucker knows you don’t have time to spend hours on the phone; brokers and freight forwarders deal with the customer so you can focus on driving (and getting there safely).

The FMCSA recently made changes to the requirements for freight brokers. Will these changes have any impact on you?

Freight Brokers Must Hold $75,000 Surety Bond

Beginning Oct. 1, 2013 the amount of bond a freight broker must hold increases to $75,000, up from $10,000. This is a big increase and will primarily impact small and new brokers. Group surety bonds are not currently allowed, but the FMCSA may revise this after evaluation.

Definition of Broker Changed

Another big change is a change in wording redefining broker as a person that arranges the moving of freight for a fee. The new law specifically prohibits motor carriers from brokering loads unless they are registered brokers. If you arrange for loads to be moved, you must register as a broker, even if it’s just a few loads on the side. Enforcement for this provision might take time to develop as it is difficult to determine how many motor carriers also broker loads.

Motor carriers that want to register as brokers should file an OP-1 Form with the FMCSA. Include your US DOT number, but leave the MC number blank. The FMCSA issues a separate MC number for brokering authority.

Actionable Changes You Can Make

The new laws mean changes for the transportation industry. Here are a few changes you might want to make in accordance with the new laws:

  •  Avoid accepting loads from unregistered brokers.
  •  Register with the FMCSA as a broker if you currently broker loads.
  •  Increase your bond amount if you are a registered broker.

How Will These Changes Affect You?

The full results of this change are yet unknown. It may result in less brokering fraud since it will be more difficult to start up a new operation. Bond premiums will be higher and more difficult to obtain. Freight rates may also increase since the new bond requirements will be more expensive, thus pushing up the cost of transportation. This may also lead to less competition and fewer brokers, especially small brokers. With fewer small brokers large brokers may increase profits and decrease payouts to owner operators. Larger bonds will provide more protection for non-payment. Only time will reveal the full impact of these changes on those across the transportation industry. The one thing we do know however is that these changes will make an impact.

While the FMCSA’s recent changes primarily deal with freight brokers, they will have an effect on all involved in transportation. How do you see these changes impacting you?

New Hours of Service Go Into Effect This July- Are You Ready for the Changes?

 

Do you wish you had a little more time on your hands? Working as a trucker often means long hours, many more than the typical American worker. While numerous people punch the time clock at their 40 hour a week jobs, some truckers drive as many as 82 hours any given week. If you feel like you need a vacation, you’re not alone, but the change in the hours of service rules from the FMCSA probably wasn’t the type of extra hours you were hoping to receive. These new rules mean big changes for many truckers and will have a real impact on how you work, how you drive and even on your insurance coverage starting in July of this year.

 

What Are the New Rules?

 

The new rules go into effect in just a few months; familiarize yourself with them now so you’ll be ready to follow them come July. Here are some of the highlights:

 

·        Number of Total Driving Hours Per Week Reduced- One of the biggest changes in the new hours of service rules impacts drivers who drive the maximum number of allowed hours each week. Currently an average of 82 hours of weekly driving time is allowed, but once the new rules take effect this number will decrease to 70 hours per week. No changes have been made to the number of allowed driving hours each day which will remain at 11.

 

·        Changes to 34 Hour Restart- Drivers working long hours often utilize the 34 restart to gain additional allowable driving hours during the week. After taking a 34 hour break the number of hours driven is reset to 0, allowing drivers to get a clean start on hours for the coming week. With the new rule each 34 hour restart must now include two consecutive 1 am to 5 am periods (driver’s local time). This reduces fatigue and allows the body to get optimal, nighttime sleep. Additionally the restart will only be available just once each week (168 hours).

 

·        30 Minutes of Rest Required Every 8 Hours- While the changes to the maximum number of weekly hours and the 34 hour restart will only effect truckers driving long hours, one provision will impact almost every trucker on the road. Starting in July all truckers will be required to take a 30 minute break every 8 hours. This break can be taken at any time, but you must never remain on duty for more than 8 consecutive hours without taking a break. You don’t have to rest during your break; it can be spent getting a meal, taking a walk, etc. as long as you’re off duty and not working.

 

·        More Information About the New Rules of Service- Get all the details about the new rules of service by reading the full report from the FMSCA. They have also prepared a helpful question and answer page that may answer some of your biggest questions regarding the upcoming changes.

 

The new regulations won’t just change the way you drive; they can also impact your insurance rates. Safety violations, including hours of service violations, can leave a negative mark on your SMS (Safety Management System) scores, which could potentially lead to higher insurance premiums. However, the reverse is also true. Truckers that consistently observe safety regulations and avoid receiving violations can often improve their insurance rates and save money. Whether you’ve got a few violations on your record or a perfectly clean report Western Truck Insurance Services would love to help you find the best rate possible. While trucking regulations change, one thing that will always remain the same is our focus on quality and helping drivers like you save time and money on great truck insurance.