The American Bus Association (ABA) – the industry leader advancing North American motorcoach travel and tourism – released the following statement regarding ABA’s petition on the California Meal and Rest Break rules to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the reaction from the California Attorney General and California Labor Commissioner’s Offices.
Recently the Attorney General blasted ABA for filing a petition with the FMCSA on the California Meal and Rest Break rules for motorcoach drivers. Now ABA says it’s time to set the record straight on how California’s current rules contradict federal rules and regulations, raise safety concerns and place undue hardships on motorcoach drivers conducting intrastate and interstate operations, as well as the passengers they serve.
Currently, the law in California mandates when a bus driver can take a meal or rest break, instead of leaving it up to the driver to best judge when he/she is hungry or tired or when passengers on a charter or tour would enjoy stopping for a meal or a break. This is just another example of government overreach, perhaps, but in this case, it affects safety, too.
The requirements under the California Meal and Rest Break (MRB) rules that a bus driver must take a 30-minute meal break after 5 hours on duty and a 10-minute rest break after every 4 hours on duty, are completely unworkable in the context of the motorcoach industry’s daily operations. They also undermine the flexibility provided in the FMCSA’s driver hours of service regulations for motor carriers of passengers, which state a bus driver may drive up to 10 hours a day and could be on duty an additional 5 hours but not driving and may take time off duty when appropriate in the middle of a daily duty period for a rest or meal break. This provides bus drivers the flexibility to set their own driving and break schedules on a daily basis, using their own judgement and that of their customers.
The MRB rules also require the bus driver to be completely relieved of all responsibilities during the mandated breaks, meaning that to comply a bus driver must walk entirely away from a bus load of passengers at the mandated time, regardless of where the vehicle is at the moment. So, if stuck in traffic or navigating a route with no safe place to stop, regardless, the rules require the bus driver to abandon the passengers, creating an enormous safety risk for both the passengers and vehicle. A completely untenable situation.
Our professionally trained bus drivers take their responsibilities seriously, they appreciate their role in safe-guarding and serving their passengers. That training and commitment is why motorcoach travel is the safest form of ground transportation. During breaks, bus drivers ensure passengers are able to de-board and re-board the vehicle safely, and if a passenger is in a wheelchair the driver must use the lift to allow the passenger in a wheelchair the same opportunity to de-board and re-board. The driver must also be responsible for the safety of the vehicle and its contents during any break. Additionally, drivers are available to respond to any questions from passengers about the schedules, routing, amenities or itineraries for the trip. These are not responsibilities a driver can simply walk away from because a misguided law dictates it should be so.
Imposing the California MRB rules on top of the hours of service requirements creates unnecessary safety risks for passengers and the vehicle and interferes with operational schedules and service connections. The federal rules, alternatively, reflect an understanding of passenger vehicle operations including sufficient flexibility to safeguard passengers and enable drivers to make good decisions concerning breaks.
The current federal hours of service rules state no motor carrier of passengers shall permit or require any passenger-carrying commercial motor vehicle driver to drive:
- More than 10 hours following 8 consecutive hours off duty, or
- For any period after having been on duty 15 hours following 8 consecutive hours off duty.
Under the same labor code, California has recognized federal authority regarding regulating Hours and Days of Work, it should be consistent with regard to Meal and Rest Break rules.