Bill promises overtime pay for truck drivers

Bill promises overtime pay for truck drivers

truck driver

Federal law has exempted truck drivers from overtime pay since 1938. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Bipartisan lawmakers have introduced a bill that would give America’s 2.19 million truck drivers the right to overtime pay.

A 1938 law guarantees most American workers the minimum wage and time-and-a-half pay if they work more than 40 hours in one week. However, this law excludes truck drivers.

The bill introduced Thursday in both the House and Senate would repeal the provision in a 1938 law that exempts carriers from paying overtime wages.

In a larger study of the U.S. shipping industry, the Biden administration urged Congress to give drivers overtime pay, according to a February 2022 document. A Democratic lawmaker introduced a bill to guarantee overtime pay for truck drivers in April 2022, but the legislation did not move forward.

In the latest effort, two Democratic senators and a bipartisan team of two House representatives are pushing for the bill. It still has a long way to go, including committee review before potential votes before the full House and Senate. Control of Congress is currently divided, with Republicans controlling the majority in the House of Representatives and Democrats running the Senate.

The bill would provide truck drivers with higher wages but put pressure on employers

A group of academics wrote for Overdrive magazine last year that passing this bill would likely benefit truck drivers and challenge employers. Under current federal regulations, truck drivers operate under strict hours-of-service requirements; They are not allowed to drive more than 11 hours in a 14-hour window, and are capped at 70 hours of work in an eight-day period. They are usually paid per mile.

Meanwhile, large trucking employers are seeing massive turnover rates, which they typically attribute to larger lifestyle problems in the trucking industry. Others believe this turnover rate, which averaged 94% at large truck carriers from 1995 to 2017, is due to drivers not being paid enough.

“There is a retention problem,” Wayne State University professor Michael Pelzer told FreightWaves last year. “This is simply because you are not paying these people. After you get paid for working 40 hours when you actually worked 65 hours, you will become unhappy. That is why they quit.”

Studies show that increasing truck drivers’ wages reduces the number of accidents. Studies show that reducing unpaid labor, such as the hours drivers often spend without pay waiting in warehouses to load or unload, is also a boon to safety and overall supply chain efficiency.

Truckers, safety advocacy groups embrace the bill, while American trucking associations criticize it

Groups such as the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the Truckers Association, the Truck Safety Alliance and the Safer Trucking Institute supported the bill in statements Thursday.

“It is unbelievable that trucking is one of the only professions in America where guaranteed overtime pay is denied,” Todd Spencer, president of OOIDA, said in a statement Thursday. “We are late as a nation to appreciate the sacrifices truck drivers make every day. This starts with just paying truck drivers for the entire time they work. With this discount on truck driver time, Big Trucking has led a race to the bottom for wages that treat truck drivers.” “As consumable components rather than treating truck drivers as professionals.”

Meanwhile, the American Trucking Associations believe the law, if passed, would lead to “chaos in the supply chain and inflationary consequences for consumers.”

“This proposal is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to increase trial attorneys’ fees,” ATA CEO Chris Speer said in a statement Thursday. “It would reduce driver pay and eliminate trucking jobs by upending wage models that for 85 years have provided sustainable family wages while growing the U.S. supply chain.”

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, heavy-duty truck and trailer drivers earned a median annual salary of $49,920 in 2022. Data from the ATA, a lobbying group made up mostly of large trucking companies, found that the median pay for truck drivers was About $70,000 before interest in 2021.

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