February 26, 2016 5:00 PM, EST

House Moving Away From FAA Bill Containing Meal-Break Provision

Graves, Boxer

The Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill containing a key provision related to meal breaks is expected to be put on hold by Republicans who control the House floor schedule, according to multiple published reports.

But House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), who introduced the bill, said he will continue efforts to educate lawmakers “and address questions they have about the bill.”

Shuster, according to a statement, said the bill “proposes significant reform of our aviation system, and many current members of Congress have not seen a proposal such as this.”

Disagreements among top transportation leaders over the trucking language and an effort to privatize air traffic controllers hampered the legislation, which was reported by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Feb. 11. Politico and others are reporting leadership will move instead to a short-term extension of current FAA authorization, which expires at the end of March.  

The meal-break provision in the House bill is aimed largely at blocking a California meal-break law, signed in 2011, that requires employers to provide a “duty-free” 30-minute meal break for employees who work more than five hours a day and a second “duty-free” 30-minute meal break for those who work more than 10 hours a day.  The trucking provision in the FAA bill is backed by American Trucking Associations, among other groups.

“The singular purpose of our legislative effort is to reassert the uniform and consistent set of work rules that Congress had previously determined make sense for the interstate movement of freight,” said ATA President Bill Graves.  “This is not a debate that should be guided by the interests of the plaintiffs’ bar or big labor, in an effort to undermine our national uniform regulations. It does nothing to impact driver pay or anyone’s ability to take a break when they are fatigued or for any other reason.”

In the Senate, California Democrat Barbara Boxer told House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) she was pleased with the GOP leadership’s decision in the House to hold off on advancing the aviation reform.

“The legislation would dock the pay of truck drivers by attacking state laws that protect their pay during bathroom or meal breaks, or when performing necessary activities like loading or unloading a truck,” Boxer wrote in a letter to Ryan. “This provision has no place in the FAA bill or any other bill,” the senator added.

“We continue to be disappointed with Sen. Boxer’s distortions and misinformation about the California provisions which are designed to pre-empt federal law,” Graves said. “In 1994, the House and Senate, with the support of Sen. Boxer and almost every member of Congress, ordered that federal rules, not state rules, should govern the interstate trucking industry. 

"A patchwork of state-by-state rules, as Sen. Boxer is proposing, leads to higher costs for every product manufactured and sold in this country, operational confusion for commercial vehicle drivers and the public safety professionals who monitor their activity, and increased congestion and environmental impact. 

"We believe that federal oversight of interstate commerce was, and continues to be, the correct decisions by the Congress in 1994 and will fight to keep states from usurping that federal authority.” 

Calls to Ryan’s office were not immediately returned.