WASHINGTON Q&A: DOT truckers exempt from state break rules
Wage and Hour
Question: Our truck drivers in Washington, hoping to make more money by completing more deliveries, recently said they don’t need to take mandatory rest and meal periods that comply with Washington law. Is that true?
Answer: Surprisingly, yes, assuming the truck drivers you’re referring to are property-carrying commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers subject to the hours of service regulations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). In November 2020, FMCSA concluded that FMCSA-regulated CMV drivers are exempt from Washington’s rest and meal period requirements. The State of Washington initially challenged FMCSA’s decision but then, as we previously reported, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals made a similar decision in January 2021 supporting FMCSA’s rules over California’s rest and meal period requirements. The State of Washington decided it was unlikely to do any better than California in its legal appeal, so in August 2022 it officially withdrew its attempt to overturn FMCSA’s decision.
Although the law doesn’t require you to comply with Washington’s meal and rest period requirements for CMV drivers, nothing prevents you from maintaining your policy. If you’re going to change your approach, be sure you still comply with the FMCSA hours of service requirements and be thoughtful about ensuring employees can still take breaks when they need to for safety and health reasons. One step you might consider is making the Washington meal and rest periods optional, instead of doing away with them all together. If you have additional questions about rest and meal periods for these drivers, talk to your Vigilant Law Group employment attorney. For more information about FMCSA requirements in general, talk to your FMCSA compliance expert and see our Legal Guide, Motor Carrier Safety Requirements.