Employment Issues Keep on Truckin’First Quarter 2012 – Newsletters California Update
Truck drivers may be exempt from federal and California overtime requirements. California and federal law have distinct and separate overtime regulations. Notably, however, truck drivers exempt from the overtime requirements pursuant to the Motor Carrier Exemption of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) are also exempt from California’s overtime requirements.
In order to be exempt from the federal law requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) under the Motor Carrier Exemption, employees must fall under the authority of the United States Department of Transportation (DOT). Generally, this applies to employees who are employed by a motor carrier (defined as a provider of transportation for compensation) involved in interstate commerce, and who are not covered by the small vehicle exception.
California law, on the other hand, only applies to truck drivers whose activities are governed by either DOT’s regulations, or State of California regulations. Under the applicable DOT regulations, a vehicle is covered if it weighs at least 10,000 pounds, and either the goods being transported or the carrier crosses state lines. Under California regulations, the vehicle must be one of the following: vehicles with three axles and weighing at least 10,000 pounds, truck tractors, buses, farm labor vehicles or paratransit vehicles, combinations of vehicles that exceed 40 feet when coupled together, trucks transporting hazardous materials, any commercial vehicle weighing over 26,000 pounds or any commercial vehicle towing a vehicle weighing more than 10,000 pounds (except trailer coaches or camp and utility trailers).
In-state truck drivers may have to comply with DOT random drug testing requirement. Under Vehicle Code Section 34520, certain drivers of "Commercial Motor Vehicles" must comply with federal DOT regulations - including the requirement to participate in random drug testing. “Commercial Motor Vehicle” means a motor vehicle or combination of motor vehicles used in commerce to transport passengers or property if the vehicle:
- Has gross weight rating of more than 26,000 pounds, including a towed unit with gross weight of 10,000 pounds; or
- Has gross vehicle weight rating of more than 25,000 pounds; or
- Is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the drivers; or
- Is of any size and is used to transport hazardous materials
If an employer’s vehicles fall within one of the four categories identified above, then the Vehicle Code Section applies and the employer must start conducting random drug testing as required by federal DOT regulations even if the drivers do not cross state lines.
- Truck drivers’ meal and rest period claims may be preempted by federal law. Two recent federal district court cases have held that drivers’ California law claims for missed meals and rest periods were preempted by federal law. These cases, Dilts v. Penske Logistics, LLC, and Esquivel et al. v. Performance Food Group Inc., both built upon a test enunciated by the Ninth Circuit regarding preemption under the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (FAAAA), which was enacted in 1994 to preempt state laws related to the prices, routes or services of federally regulated motor carriers. In the most recent case, Esquivel v. PFG, decided in February 2012, the plaintiffs were a class of delivery drivers who claimed that their fixed routes and the timing of deliveries prevented them from taking meal periods according to state law. The court, however, found that the claims were preempted under the FAAAA, and determined that requiring motor carriers to follow California requirements for meal and rest periods would interfere with competitive market forces within the industry because it is directly related to the frequency and scheduling of transportation. While these cases signal a favorable trend for transportation industry employers, plaintiffs in both cases plan to appeal the decisions to the Ninth Circuit.