Late last month, The US Transportation Department rules that California’s regulations on truckers were too strict. While many may not like the Federal guidelines for hours of service, the ruling sets precedent to prevent other states from restricting the already narrow rules laid down by the FMCSA.

Forced Breaks Are Gone

Under the old regulations in California, truckers were required to take a 30-minute meal break for shifts of five hours or more, and a mandatory 10-minute break every four hours. While everyone appreciates downtime, the inflexible state regulations actually placed more pressure on drivers. Fighting against forced breaks lowered productivity for drivers taking shipments within and across California. The forced breaks potentially raised the risk of hazardous driving as truckers needed to reach their destinations in time, while state law required them to lose dime and distance on the road.

The FMCSA Ruling

When the FMCSA ruled against California’s forced breaks, the ATA claimed it was a victory in favor of highway safety. Having individual state regulations that go beyond federal rulings place an unnecessary burden on truckers to “make up lost time.” State regulations on truckers disrupt supply chains. In an economic landscape that relies on the trucking industry, requiring truckers to abide by different laws as they haul interstate shipments is unreasonable, especially when those state regulations attempt to supersede federal laws.

The Bigger Picture

The FMCSA may seem like a victory against individual state regulations, but it is part of a larger discussion. Over the last year, with the demand for capacity trucks and a shortage of available drivers, the FMCSA had to review its own rulings on hours of service. Exemptions were put in place for agricultural shipments, due to the inherent time-sensitive nature of produce and other perishables. It is possible that – much like the ruling against California due to a petition – the current overarching regulations on hours of service will be revised. This would take a lot of pressure off of truckers while simultaneously improving productivity across supply chains throughout the United States.

Express Freight Finance will be monitoring this as it unfolds, and will any news as things progress.