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April 10, 2017 3:00 AM, EDT

Trucking Seeks Meal, Rest Provision in Bill to Keep US Government Funded

Stephen H. Goldstein/TT

This story appears in the April 10 print edition of Transport Topics.

Republican leaders in Congress have expressed confidence that legislation to fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year will advance before an April 28 deadline.

Trucking executives say they are hopeful the funding legislation will include a meal and rest break pre-emption provision, which has the support of many senior lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

“Without uniform federal laws and regulations governing motor carriers, multiple layers of rules threaten to impair and impede the movement of freight throughout the country, creating a substantially burdensome and redundant system of rules for operation,” American Trucking Associations noted in a statement, in which the group urged lawmakers to include the provision in a fiscal 2017 funding bill.

Such a pre-emption provision would be designed to clarify a requirement in a 1994 aviation law called F4A, or FAAAA, to block a California law signed in 2011. That law requires employers to provide a “duty-free” 30-minute meal break for employees who work more than five hours a day as well as a second “duty-free” 30-minute meal break for people who work more than 10 hours a day.

The committee with jurisdiction over funding matters did not confirm if the pre-emption provision would be included in the legislation.

Lawmakers are on a two-week recess and will return to Capitol Hill on April 24, just days before funding for the government expires. Negotiators say they have reached an agreement over a final funding package for a fiscal 2017 bill, which is known as an “omnibus.” Failing to agree on an omnibus would prompt a need for passing a continuing resolution, or CR, to avoid a shutdown of most agencies, such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

This month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) assured his colleagues of his commitment to avoid a government shutdown. He also endorsed an omnibus by saying, “There’s no desire for a CR.”

With spending talks led by the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate funding committees, the omnibus is likely to be finalized over the break and, ideally, be ready for consideration when Congress returns from the Easter recess, Jeff Davis, senior fellow at the Eno Center for Transportation, told Transport Topics on April 4.

“They’re hopefully going to have a bill on the floor in the House, maybe Monday the 24th. The shutdown would otherwise happen Friday night. So it will be a very tense last week,” Davis said, adding that opting for a CR would prevent new transportation program initiatives authorized by law to commence.