Second bill takes aim at truckers' overtime exemption

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Updated Mar 16, 2023

Senators Alex Padilla (D-California), Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), and Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts), co-introduced on Monday legislation that would require overtime pay for truck drivers. The bill is companion legislation to the Guaranteeing Overtime for Truckers Act, a bill introduced in April in the House by Democratic Michigan Rep. Andy Levin.

The bills seek to remove the motor carrier provision from Fair Labor Standards Act, which excludes many commercial truck operators from overtime protections. 

[Related: Why we need to eliminate the overtime exemption to the Fair Labor Standards Act to solve the driver shortage]

Padilla noted the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting supply chain crisis "aggravated persistent hardships for truckers, including long hours spent waiting – often unpaid – to load and unload goods" in looking for drivers' removal from an exemption that covers drivers, drivers' helpers, loaders, mechanics and anyone with job duties that perform â€śsafety affecting activities." Dispatchers, office personnel, employees who unload vehicles, or those who load but are not responsible for the proper loading of the vehicle, are not exempt from overtime. 

Given the disparity of how people performing transportation various roles can be paid, Markey laid the blame for an often-cited truck driver shortage on the profession's pay structure.

"Outdated labor regulations have denied these vital workers overtime, leading to high turnover and supply chain disruptions," Markey said. "Don’t be fooled by the trucking companies’ crocodile tears. There is a simple way to recruit and retain drivers: increase their pay. The Guaranteeing Overtime for Truckers Act does exactly that by eliminating the overtime exemption."

The legislation has the support of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), the Truck Safety Coalition, the Institute for Safer Trucking, Parents Against Tired Truckers and CRASH, a grassroots non-profit dedicated to improving overall truck safety in the U.S. 

Removal of the exemption was included as a suggested priority action for the Department of Transportation in its Supply Chain Assessment of the Transportation Industrial Base, itself based largely on stakeholder input taken amid disruptions that exposed vulnerabilities in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the document noted as an action item a policy recommendation for the DOT to "urge Congress to eliminate the Fair Labor Standards Act motor carrier exemption. Under the current exemption, employers are not required to pay overtime to many truck drivers."

Jason Cannon has written about trucking and transportation for more than a decade and serves as Chief Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. A Class A CDL holder, Jason is a graduate of the Porsche Sport Driving School, an honorary Duckmaster at The Peabody in Memphis, Tennessee, and a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Reach him at [email protected].