According to congressional Democrats, a trucking provision in House aviation bill jeopardizes approval of the legislation governing the Federal Aviation Administration.
The provision dealing with rest breaks for truckers is part of an FAA bill, which primarily aims to shift air-traffic control from the FAA to a nonprofit corporation.
The bill was approved on Feb. 11 by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, but awaits consideration by the full House and the Senate. Current FAA legislation expires March 31.
“This terrible, anti-safety, anti-worker provision is a poison pill and it has no place in the FAA bill,” says Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
Boxer says that she forced the removal of the trucking provision from a highway bill Congress approved in the fall. She described “a knock-down, drag-out battle” with Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., over the trucking provision.
Twenty states and the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have rules for meal and rest breaks for truckers that would be overturned, if the legislation is approved.
But Richard Pianka, a lawyer for the industry group American Trucking Associations, said the provision shouldn’t be controversial because it would simply restore policy set by Congress in a 1994 FAA law. The law prohibited the states from regulating prices, routes and services of interstate motor carriers.
“We don’t think it should be a killer,” Pianka said. “The interstate trucking industry is dependent on this provision to establish national uniformity, which is important for efficiency, it’s important for safety.”
The trucking industry asked Congress for action because the Supreme Court refused last summer to hear an appeal on the subject from the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeals court upheld a California law allowing for a 30-minute meal break after five hours of work and a 10-minute rest break after four hours of work.
Because the language prohibiting state-level trucking regulations originally appeared in an FAA bill, Republicans have said it should be remedied in the latest FAA bill, where Shuster included it.
“My sense is they’re evaluating whether they should go to the bill, keep it bipartisan and not include some of the controversy in it,” Boxer said. “What worries me is it will remain in some form or another.”