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Todd Dills

Reader: Repeal FLSA trucking exemption

| July 24, 2012

The following comes by way of owner-operator Joe Ammons, who is looking for assistance with a petition for the U.S. Secretary of Transportation (or Congress) to repeal the trucking exemption to the Fair Labor Standards Act, which among other things specifies the 40-hour workweek and 8-hour day for employees of companies in other industries — particularly in the context of the new Congressional mandate for interstate carriers to use electronic onboard recorders, which would seem to negate traditional arguments for the trucking exemption, as Ammons has noted.

It is time, Ammons says, for the industry and its drivers to make an exchange — the chance of time and a half and coming in line with much of the mainstream U.S. workforce on hours in exchange for industrywide EOBRs: “I feel it is time to offer up the exchange and make things equal,” he says. “Let the government, the industry and the shopping public know exactly what all this regulation is costing them and us. Maybe as an owner-operator this won’t affect me right away, but it will have an eventual trickle-down in detention time, rates, and lifestyle.”

Like the idea? Tell Ammons and all of us in the comments below.


Older than HOS, time for change
With all the emphasis on hours of service and EOBRs, little attention has been given to a key piece of title 49 transportation law. That one bit of law is actually older by book than the hours of service rule itself. This rule is originally date February 4 1887, under relationship to statute 379 Sec. 204 (a)(1)-(2). The basic description of this law is Fair Labor Standards Administration, exemption, transportation.

The law originally defined transportation as exempt from some labor standards because the qualifications, hours for service and safety were under the control of the Interstate Commerce Commission. The descriptor was rewritten during deregulation to be under the Secretary Of Transportation. The basic premise, as established in the 1935 revisions by the ICC, was that the industry needed continued protection because there was no way to track transportation workers’ hours. Companies, employers, were not able to know when these workers were actually working, sleeping, taking breaks or otherwise not productive.

That is about to change with the mandates included in the MAP-21 transportation bill, and it is time to redefine who should fall under the umbrella of the FLSA exemption. With the addition of EOBRs, trucking companies and the entire industry will be able to track when a driver is working and with that information available, it is time to pay for the productive time each driver puts in, whether at a shipper/receiver facility, an inspection facility, or driving.

If the EOBR is really supposed to be for safety, then lets make it safer for the transportation specialists driving these trucks to do so, and still make a living wage.

With current trends to update the hours of service and FMCSA  proclaiming that their top priority is safety and using these changes as a platform  to prove their commitment, it is time to update the scope of the FLSA transportation exemption. Such an action would not even require legislation, since the decision is under the control of the Secretary of Transportation, and he has been handed the tools to make a change of status under MAP-21.

What we need now is for all of us drivers and owner-operators to petition the Secretary to make the change, and if he will not, then Congress should step in and do so and prove it is about safety. Because as long as this industry operates under this exemption, there will be continued abuse by the many parties involved — shippers/receivers, trucking companies, brokers and others involved in the transportation industry. For you owner-ops who think this won’t help you, you need to understand that the trickle down will take less than six months to increase your rates and decrease your waiting time at the whim of some shipper or receiver.

I propose someone in this industry help me get that petition stared, and it doesn’t matter whether it is a trucking executive, OOIDA, or even the people at Truck Safety Coalition.

FMCSA wants to see change for safety: let’s complete the change in the name of safety!

–Joe Ammons, Ellensburg , Wash.

  • David Cox

    if this was to get real attention from the Goverment i think it would totally change our industry. Im not sure in which direction though. Yes we would all love “fair compensation” for the hours we work – from driving to non driving duties, But the sad part of our industry is the more we cost,, the more everything will cost the general public

    I am not against anyone getting higher pay i just dont want this to turn around on us and cause more damage then harm.

  • Deb Lipsitz

    I’ve been arguing for this ever since I realized that, if we factor in all hours actually worked, and applied FLSA, the average trucker would be earning just above minimum wage (based on working the full 70 hours in 8 days we log, plus all the work we are required by our jobs to do that we don’t get paid a penny for). I see my prices going up for housing, food, energy, and all the other usual costs of running a household, but I rarely saw my home. Everyone would blame these increase on “increased transportation costs due to fuel prices,” yet freight rates never went up, and many driver’s had their pay cut to deal with the fuel costs, and stagnant freight rates.
    With EOBR’s there is a verifiable, and legally binding, way to see exactly what the driver is doing, where, and when. They can’t use the mythical assumption we’re all lazy as an excuse any longer. Carriers would be forced to pay for the work we do, and shippers would need to raise their rates if they want their product moved. Yes, prices would go up on everything, but this time it really would be because of increased transportation costs, instead of us being scapegoats for those trying to profit off speculation.

  • Andy Soucy

    Absolutely… ! I have been making this very argument myself for yrs. PPM does not promote safe operation in its design. It time drivers are recognized and protected by the fair labor act.

  • David S. McQueen

    Working 70 hours every 8 days comes to 8.75 hours/day. Under FLSA, all non-exempt workers’ time over 40 hours during the work week is paid at 1.5 times the normal rate. A 7-day work week would give a driver 21.25 hours overtime pay per week. It would also mean that carriers’ compensation programs would have to change from miles driven to hours worked. Food for thought, indeed . . .

  • Joe Ammons

    Concerns bour pay per mile, and having this turn around on us, can be stilled by the fact that companies would still base pay on miles, but dock time loading and unloading ect. would be paid at what your avg. mileage pay comes to on a hourly basis. Some industry stakeholders already apply this methodology.

  • Mind Games

    Me and this guy must be related! I have been on the phone with my representatives ever since this blackbox issue surfaced and I have yet to recieve a call from my elected bribed by the trucking company leaders… Maxine Waters, Diane Feinsteine I’m still waiting on that call…

    Money to bribe my elected officials I do not have but I like millons of other drivers pack some real heat called a key and I really hope they don’t force me to use it.

  • Mind Games

    People the black box ran my previous buisness under and I had to set up another biz in another state so heed the warning from someone who knows.
    I also had to get away from Dart transit because the owner supports the blackbox issue and along with what little freight miles his company had to offer that
    too did me in and I may need to file a BK to keep what litle I have left.
    Running under that blackbox made me a zombie too!! Accidents will rise you can bank on that!!!

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