A group of drivers and trucking industries are once again trying to get language into federal law which would prevent states from regulating the trucking industry in matters of pay and benefits. This newest effort follows a similar one that industry leaders attempted in the most recent trucking bill, but that eventually failed.
The biggest problem that these advocates see in current legal trends is how courts are now making rulings that reach back and penalize states for failing to follow state labor laws. This can include minimum wage laws, benefits requirements, and rest and meal time allowances. To be sure, groups of former or current employees can sue a trucking company claiming the company did not follow state law, and therefore they should pay what is owed. Companies do not know what to do, other than fight, because for a long time it has been understood that because the federal government so heavily regulates trucking, state laws do not apply.
It is being reported that an Oregon Congressman, Peter DeFazio, does not support inserting such language into new federal laws. If Congress does not act, what will result is a continued patchwork of court decisions that impact the laws and trucking companies in one state, but not another. That is why so many are advocating new language in the federal statutes.
State Laws vs. Federal Laws
This issue begins with the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act 49 U.S.C. § 14501 et. seq. and the portion of that law that prohibits states from enacting laws that interfere with the transportation industry. And specifically, the law preempts state laws that relate to “intrastate rates, intrastate routes, or intrastate services of” of the transportation industry. Historically, these provisions have been interpreted by many companies to mean they did not have to follow state labor and benefits laws regarding their employees. As the thinking went, abiding by those state labor and benefits laws would necessarily impact prices, routes, and services.
This industry held standard has been chipped away and overturned in recent months and years. Across the country, federal and state courts have established a new standard that requires trucking companies to comply with state laws when it comes to state wage laws and benefits laws, but not in all states and federal courts. What has resulted is a situation where companies are paying millions of dollars in legal fees and back wages and benefits that they never expected to have to pay.
This situation is a clear example of why it is so important to have a law firm and legal partner that can advise and help steer your transportation company into the right direction. The transportation industry is different in that it crosses state lines more than any other, and it is often regulated by both state and federal governments. Knowing which decision to make in order to stay in compliance is those laws is key for a company’s success.
If you are in the transportation industry, contact us. Our team of dedicated professionals has many years of experience helping small, medium, and large transportation companies with every legal issue. From litigation to regulatory compliance, at Anderson and Yamada, P.C., we can help your company going forward.