Drowsy drivers are involved in thousands of serious, costly and even deadly vehicle crashes each year. But, despite the risk of these fatal motor vehicle accidents, the federal government is blocking the State of California from enforcing its more stringent meal and rest break rules.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration granted a petition from the American Bus Association seeking to block the state’s meal and rest break laws on Jan. 21. The industry group argued that federal fatigue management regulations supersede California’s standards and that the state’s requirements may harm safety.
All California’s workers are entitled to 30-minute meal break for shifts of at least five hours and a 10-minute break for each four hours of work. But FMCSA regulations permit bus drivers to work shifts of up to 15 hours without a break. These shifts may include 10 hours of driving.
Earlier this month, the California Attorney general filed a petition with the federal Ninth circuit court of Appeals seeking to reverse the FMCSA’s decision. The state claimed that its meal and break rules workplace standards that generally apply to all workers do not fall within the federal government’s power to override state laws affecting commercial vehicle drivers.
The Attorney General argued that all California workers, including its bus drivers, are entitled to basic labor rights such as appropriate meal and rest breaks. The California Labor Commissioner also said that her agency has a long history of defending rest and meal periods for the protection and welfare of California workers. Last winter, the state filed another petition in federal court seeking the reversal of a FMCSA decision that federal law prevents California from enforcing its labor standards for truck drivers.
Fatigue-related accidents are deadly and costly. Drowsy motorists cause an average of 328,000 accidents each year that includes 6,400 fatal crashes and 109,000 accidents resulting in injuries. These crashes cost this country $109 billion each year, according to a National Highway Traffic Administration 2015 study.
An accident caused by a drowsy commercial vehicle driver can be particularly dangerous because of the size of these vehicles. Drowsy drivers, however, are only one category of negligent or reckless drivers. An attorney can help victim of these accidents pursue their compensation rights.