The U.S. economy relies on commercial trucking to transport manufactured goods, produce and other foods from one part of the country to another. Trucking is the primary transportation for any type of shipping within the country and to and from the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Therefore, it’s important to have a healthy transportation system with minimal costs to keep prices down on all shipped goods for American consumers and businesses. However, commercial truckers are at risk for personal injury liability that can raise costs for the industry.
California’s Trucking Laws
California is a major producer of goods that are shipped across the country including much of the produce that is sold in grocery stores year round. However, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) recently decided to consider adding liability risk in pending or future civil lawsuits, according to legal experts. This decision is related to California’s requirements for meals and breaks which are more stringent than federal requirements. California’s meal and rest break laws require drivers be given a 30-minute meal break every five hours and an additional 10-minute rest break every four hours. Federal requirements are that drivers take a 30-minute rest break after eight hours, and prohibit drivers from operating a truck if a driver feels too tired to drive safely.
The case highlights a disagreement between the Teamsters and the American Trucking Association (ATA) about whether laws should be the same throughout the country and how they are applied changing driver effectiveness and liability. Adding liability raises costs for drivers often requires additional truck financing that lowers profitability for the industry. It also increases considerable risks for civil lawsuits in case of accidents.
Costly Personal Injury Lawsuits
The case is still moving through the federal court system so final outcome is yet unknown, but until it is truckers will likely need to carry additional personal injury insurance to protect themselves from legal issues. The decision leaves unclear whether California’s stricter laws supersede federal laws while driver are operating within the borders of the state. However, personal injury lawsuits are a potential problem for drivers throughout the country, and protecting drivers against costly lawsuits is an important issue for the Teamsters and their membership as well as driver-operators that aren’t Teamster members.
Changes in Trucking Laws
Allowing drivers enough break and meal time is a serious consideration in every state as no one wants tired commercial truckers on the road to raise the risk of potential accidents. Safe roads are better for everyone, and the outcome of the case will affect all drivers within California or not.