Channel 19

Todd Dills

California domestic workers and truck drivers; $1,500 for a few words

| July 11, 2013

I’ve written about the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938’s company driver exemptions from overtime pay and the reasons many feel it was put into place in the first place — the argument that it was impossible to prove the hours worked by drivers far from home, hence an hourly pay system wouldn’t work well and paying overtime would not only be hard to compute but wouldn’t exactly encourage prompt delivery to locales in need of what drivers were carrying.

The 1930s were a very long time ago, of course, in communications technology history, and you’ll recall owner-operator Joe Ammons’ efforts to show driver support for repeal of the FLSA exemption in light of the mandate for electronic onboard recorders for hours of service tracking written into the MAP-21 highway bill last year. With EOBRs, it won’t take a whole lot for carriers to track drivers’ time worked in a relatively reliable way.

Seems simple, doesn’t it?

It’s not — just think of the broad shift to hourly pay that would have to occur and the administrative hurdles therein, to say nothing of the amount of war-gaming the new system carriers of all shapes and sizes employing drivers would have to go through in order to determine what a going hourly rate would be. Many, however, believe that moving to a time-based system of pay would be ultimately beneficial for the entire industry. Even if it might be expected to raise the costs of virtually everything for all U.S. citizens, it’d put upward pressure on rates for carriers, including for independent owner-operators and leased owner-operator pay.

California domestic workers advocate for bill of rights, including overtime payDrivers like owner-operator Joe Ammons aren’t the only folks out there who see the FLSA exemption as having run its course. Workers in other industries, too, are up in arms about their own exemption from the possibility of overtime pay (find a fairly representative list of exemptions in this post). California domestic workers — in the same class of exemption as drivers under the FLSA (with no right to overtime) — have recently gotten behind a state bill that would legislate overtime benefits for them. See this story about a “Domestic Worker’s Bill of Rights” passing the California Senate’s Labor Committee last month (the California governor vetoed a similar measure last year). In turn, Hawaii on July 1 became the second state, following New York, to offer in-house domestics wage protections under state law, which underscores a state-by-state approach to the issue by domestic advocates.

“I know several independent owner-operators and I honestly feel independent owners should be exempt from logs.” –reader Jason Simon, on Overdrive‘s Facebook page

One of the reasons I’m thinking about this today is that reader Jason Simon wrote in to our Facebook page today echoing Joe Ammons. For company drivers, he feels overtime pay should be part of the mix in this day and age, particularly in more local and/or short-regional operations that are paid hourly.

Where do you stand?

Here’s what else he had to say, about independent owner-operators: “I know several independent owner-operators and I honestly feel independent owners should be exempt from logs. Yeah, I know that’s the whole ‘outlaw’ culture and there are people completely against it.”

He sees it differently: “They have their own authority, business, insurance and equity [and they’re the pilots of the rig]. That’s a lot more to lose than any joe blow like myself who just wants to take home a paycheck and see our families at the end of the week.

“Some laws,” he added, “just seem like a bully system.” Don’t get him started on the mandated 30-minute break. . . . Speaking of which, how’s this for clarity on what activities can constitute a break from FMCSA?

Pork rinds and cold hard cash
Rudolph Foods 2013 Truck Driver Appreciation campaign$1,500 for a few words about what it means to be a truck driver? That’s the potential outcome for any of you who participate in Rudolph Foods’ warm-up to September Driver Appreciation week events this year, as last, when the company held a surreal video competition that involved pork rinds, adhesive tape and (in a winner’s case) bagpipes.

This year, the competition is under way Monday next week, beginning the 15th and running through Sept. 1. The company is asking via its Facebook page as well as its website for truck drivers to take part in the contest by “explaining in 1-2 sentences what being a truck driver means to them.” On September 1, a “panel of experts will choose the top 12 submissions,” the company says, “and during the week-long [Driver Appreciation event] consumers will be asked to vote for the best answer. Voting will take place from September 15-21, 2013 on both the Rudolph Foods and Southern Recipe Facebook pages and Rudolph Foods’ website.”

Whoever takes the most votes wins. Get your creative hats on, drivers…


  • martymarsh

    My only thoughts on this is, I doubt we will ever see over time pay, but because we don’t work by the hour Washington needs to quit regulating us to death. They want more money out of people that can’t get more money.

  • Craig Vecellio

    The reason for this standard is simple: Transportation is an infrastructure necessity, and labor is a big cost. If you control the labor cost, you limit costs nationwide. Any hourly pay system of any kind would result in a raise to the cost of living nationwide. At the current rates, minimum wage with overtime would be a raise for many truckers.

  • Cliff

    The competition and disparity in pay between carriers would be fun to watch under an hourly pay schedule. No more of the pay per mile scheme while actually not providing good mile to match it. And you want a qualified driver? Not on minimum wage you don’t. I would look forward to hourly pay just to watch the fireworks that would be started. Not sure how this would play out with a carrier that has both company and owner operators. Put company drivers on hourly and leave O/O the way they are? You know that is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

  • Todd Dills

    Sad, I do say. But you’re probably correct. I wish you weren’t, Craig — what do you think’s best? Status quo for drivers or a change in the cost of living for the entire country?

  • Craig Vecellio

    Everyone is hurting financially right now. Even as a driver, I have to admit that the increase to the cost of living for the country as a whole would do more harm than the current system. If you raise the cost of living, you reduce spending power. That then reduces the amount of goods people buy, which in turn reduces the need to transport goods. In that scenario, the hourly wage would do no good because demand for drivers, and the overtime pay created by the hourly wage would drop. The only solution would be to find that money somewhere else, rather than the public. That comes down to what the market will bear. Could the labor cost be absorbed somewhere else? Could equipment manufacturers eat the difference in lower equipment prices? Load brokers? I have never worked in a brokerage, but from what I hear, brokers keep as much as 30% of the gross for a couple hours worth of pencil pushing. I doubt we’ll see any serious changes until the situation reaches a true breaking point. Today we have government controls on the price of milk, for example, because at one time the price of milk bottomed out to the point where the milkmen couldn’t make a living. When they all dumped their product on the ground rather than lose money delivering, changes were made. Such an act by the trucking industry, under today’s laws, would be classified as terrorism, because it threatens the infrastructure. In short, I wish I knew. strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.