One of the more prevalent federal laws on the books that deal with trucking and transportation law is the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act. While the name can be misleading (it deals with more than aviation) there is a powerful provision within the FAAAA known as the preemption clause that protects trucking companies from many state and local laws.
Like other federal laws dealing with the trucking and transportation industry, the FAAAA is a policy designed to establish one uniform set of rules for trucking companies. This is necessary for a number reasons. First and foremost is the fact that as a country we are made up of fifty different states. Each of those states has its own set of laws that could deal with trucking companies, and questions arise as to which state law applies when a trucking company is going from one state to another.
The FAAAA and Uniformity
In an effort to establish federal law as the rule of law for transportation companies, the Congress passed the FAAAA to regulate trucking companies with one set of rules, instead of fifty. The most important of these rules in the FAAAA states that:
- “A state may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier…”
This is important because it essentially nullifies any state law that affects the price, route, or service of trucking companies. As you can imagine, this becomes the subject of many transportation lawsuits.
That is what happened recently in a case decided by a federal district court in Illinois. In that case, a trucking company was tasked with delivering a truckload of almonds to California from Georgia. When the truck got to the destination, it was discovered that the seal on the almonds had been breached, making the almonds unusable for human consumption. The insurer who had to pay for the lost load of almonds sued the trucking company who had subcontracted the task out to a new company.
The FAAAA and Preemption
One of the insurer’s claims was based on a state law claim of negligent hiring. They claimed that the trucking company should have known that the new company was not equipped or able to do this kind of work, and that they should pay for the lost load based on that theory. But the court saw this kind of claim as preempted by the FAAAA because it dealt with the price, route, or service provided by the carrier. That claim was dismissed by the court as preempted.
This rule of preemption is important to trucking companies for many reasons. State laws can often be punitive and favor the positions of the party bringing a claim, and can result in back breaking verdicts or settlements. Thankfully the FAAAA prevents such claims from getting much traction, and works to prevent trucking companies doing business across state lines. But to enforce these provisions you have to have the right legal team on your side.
At Anderson and Yamada we have decades of experience representing trucking and transportation companies from the Pacific Northwest in FAAAA cases, Carmack Amendment cases, and much more. We look forward to putting our experience to work for you. Contact us today.