Democratic senators call on leadership not to preempt state laws for commercial drivers

A group of Democratic senators voiced opposition on Wednesday to any provisions that could be inserted into year-end legislation that would preempt state laws requiring commercial truck drivers to take additional meal and rest breaks.

© Shutterstock

Twenty-one states currently have enhanced safety regulations that require companies to provide their drivers a baseline amount of meal and rest breaks to help keep tired drivers off the road.

In a letter to Senate leaders, U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) led a group of Democratic lawmakers in voicing opposition to any provisions that would preempt those regulations in year-end bills like the government funding bill, or the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill.

“Congress never intended to preempt such state regulations, and should not do so now in must-pass legislation,” the letter stated. “The Department of Transportation has acknowledged that state meal and rest break laws fall ‘squarely within the states’ traditional power to regulate the employment relationship and to protect worker health and safety.’”

Rolling back state regulations would infringe on the ability of states to protect the safety of their citizens and workers, the letter added, and it would “worsen the working conditions of truck drivers.”

“Congress should be focused on improving the wages and labor standards of truck drivers and all working people, not eliminating workplace safety rights that states have conferred on them,” the letter stated.

Congress previously struck similar provisions from the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act and the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017.