Whether you work locally or over the road, workweeks for the truck driver are long, and there’s always a task that needs to be done.
An overall hourly rate average for a truck driver can be difficult to determine in part because of the location they work. Do truck drivers get paid overtime? Trucking companies have also been exempted under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA) which means that many overtime rules don’t apply.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics says there were about two million people employed as “Heavy and Tractor-trailer Truck Drivers” in 2018, making a median annual income of about $40,000.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says drivers may work up to sixty hours in seven days (if you have weekends off) and seventy hours in eight days if you through the week. The sixty and seventy hour rules don’t change whether you use an electronic logging device (ELD) or or work local using time cards. Drivers report that it can be very difficult for them to complete their assigned tasks while meeting the regulations that restrict their working hours.
Other workers in the US generally get paid one and one half times their regular pay when they work more than forty hours in a week. What about the truck industry?
Do Truck Drivers Get Paid Overtime?
Generally No. A truck driver is typically paid by alternative methods, such as mileage, that doesn’t require the tracking of time. Trucking companies are exempted from overtime rules in the Fair Labor Standards Act.
It should be considered that a great many truck drivers are not paid by the hour, but by one of several alternative methods such as being paid by the mile they drive, so in reality overtime or the lack thereof is probably not the central issue that it may seem. Despite that, what follows is the explanation of why the vast majority of truck drivers won’t get overtime.
The reader should remember that any law enacted by a legislature here in America is the product of politics, and while many lawmakers are earnest public servants, others are unduly influenced by special interest groups. This was as true in 1938 as today.
While overtime pay has a certain amount of pros and cons attached to it, it’s just not a common occurrence in the truck driving industry as a whole. Federal regulations have allowed a lot of wiggle room under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA)
The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) is the US Federal Law which lays out the basic structure of wage and hour practices in the US, and is administered by the Wage and Hour Division of The US Labor Department.
FLSA established the principle of “one and one half times regular pay” for any hours worked over 40 in a week.
FLSA also establishes what the act calls “exemptions” from the law (you can read the exemption here). These exemptions have been interpreted by the courts and government agencies to mean that certain employers in certain industries do not have to pay the overtime rate to a group of their employees. These employees are said to have “exempt status” and therefore do not receive overtime pay.
There are a number of exemptions in the Act, but the one that exempts most truck drivers from overtime pay is called “The Motor Carrier Exemption”.
The motor carrier exemption defines what companies can be called “Motor Carriers” and defines which specific employees are exempt from overtime. In common parlance, Motor Carriers are “Trucking Companies”. The exempt employees are drivers, mechanics, and several other job descriptions. The motor carrier exemption allows the trucking companies not to pay drivers overtime, but there are a few exceptions I’ll mention in the next few paragraphs.
Exception 1: What Kind of Truck Driver Are You?
Several types of driver qualify under FLSA for overtime pay:
- Snow Plow Truck Drivers
- Water Truck Drivers
- Salt Truck Drivers
- Armored Truck Drivers
- Tow Truck Drivers
- Hazardous Materials Truck Drivers
- Tanker Truck Drivers
There is no rational explanation for these types of drivers to qualify for overtime when the vast majority of drivers are exempt. It occurs to me that whoever was lobbying Congress in favor of the motor carrier exemption was not interested in helping the types of organization for which those specific drivers work, but I guess I’m suspicious of all “special interest groups”.
Exception 2: Where Are You Driving Your Truck?
Drivers whose travels take place entirely within the borders of one state or territory of the US may qualify for overtime pay unless it is determined that the goods they are carrying are destined to be delivered ultimately to another state or that they have been carried into the state from another state. This gets unbelievably complex, but courts have ruled in favor of the employer in disputes over these matters. As “interstate commerce” the motor carrier exemption trumps the local route.
Although there are industry wide exemptions for truck drivers, Local and route truck drivers are usually paid overtime. This is due to the consistent schedule that they are able to keep.
Exception 3: What Size of Truck Are You Driving?
Excepted Vehicles are those that:
- are a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combined vehicle weight rating of less than 10,001 pounds
- are used to transport more than 8 passengers, including the driver, for hire
- are used to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, and not used to transport passengers for hire or
- used to carry hazardous material and require placarding under Department of Transportation regulations.
It appears as though these “little” trucks didn’t really interest the trucking industry’s lobbyists.
Do Truck Drivers Get Paid Overtime? No, not really. Truck drivers aren’t generally paid on an hourly basis and as we’ve seen there are exceptions. However, the overall compensation of truckers may be important to our economy for a couple of reasons.
Do drivers deserve it? Our nation depends on trucks to deliver approximately seventy percent of all the goods we consume. The average age of a trucker in the US is 55 years according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and NPR reports that the industry needs to hire almost nine hundred thousand new drivers to meet the anticipated demand by the year 2028.
The life of a trucker can be a very hard one, with weeks on end spent on the road between brief stops at home. The Labor Department says the median annual income for a trucker is about $40,000. That doesn’t seem to be adequate for the hours the truckers put in, nor is it compensation for the hazards they face.
Time Magazine has listed truck driving as the seventh most dangerous job in their top ten list of the most dangerous jobs.
The trucking industry generated over 700 billion dollars in revenue in 2018 and it employs nearly six percent of all American workers. Since the drivers play such an essential role in one of our most important industries, it only stands to reason that they should be making more money.