In Kentucky, there are state laws in effect which impose rest and meal break requirements applicable to truckers driving within the state. For example, truckers are entitled to a break for 10 minutes for every four hours worked. Kentucky is one of 22 states which imposes additional laws on break time for truckers above-and-beyond what the federal regulations require.
The federal government, however, is trying to make it impossible for states to impose stricter rules on truck driver breaks than the regulations set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The Richmond Times Dispatch reported on the new federal efforts to undermine state trucking safety laws.
Federal Laws Could Increase Truck Accidents
Federal lawmakers are trying to insert language affecting trucker breaks into an unrelated aviation bill. The goal is to quietly get the rules changed to preempt state laws and prevent them from imposing additional requirements related to giving truckers break time. Lawmakers tried previously to insert the same language in a transportation bill, but the language was removed during negotiations surrounding the bill.
If lawmakers are successful, this will not be the first time in recent history that federal lawmakers have inserted a provision into an unrelated bill which affected protections afforded to truckers, resulting in a potential increase in Kentucky truck accidents. In December 2015, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act also passed with language related to trucking laws, even though the bill was a must-pass piece of budget legislation which should not have had any effect on trucking safety laws.
The Appropriations Act ended up changing the rules related to a 34-hour rest break. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration had established a mandate requiring truckers to take a 34-hour rest break after 60 hours of on-duty time per week or 70-hours of on-duty time over the course of eight days. Truckers objected to provisions of the rest break requirement which mandated the rest break span two periods between the hours of 1:00 AM and 5:00 AM. The provision was fought in court, as trucking advocacy groups argued it would force truck drivers to spend too much time on the roads during some of the busiest times of the day. The trucking groups weren't successful in getting the regulation suspended in court, but federal lawmakers included language in the Appropriations Act which prevents it from being enforced.
Unfortunately, this means there is a greater risk of drowsy driving accidents because truckers are not required to take a break and get some sleep during normal sleeping hours. If the federal government succeeds in changing the rules regarding state laws on trucker breaks, the government will once again contribute to potentially increasing the risk of truck accidents. Truckers will face more pressure to drive for longer because state laws won't impose guaranteed breaks, leading to more tired and hungry truckers on the road.