Bills introduced in Senate & House guarantee overtime pay for drivers

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Updated Nov 11, 2023
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Bills that would require truck drivers to receive guaranteed overtime payment for all the hours they work were introduced in both houses of Congress Thursday, and major trucking organizations have reacted.

The Guaranteeing Overtime for Truckers Act (GOT Truckers Act), legislation was introduced by U.S. Senators Alex Padilla, a Democrat from California, and Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Representatives Jeff Van Drew, a Republican from New Jersey, and Mark Takano, a Democrat from California.

The Padilla/Markey bill is cosponsored by Senator and Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Bernie Sanders, an Independent from Vermont, as well as Senators Richard Blumenthal, Democrat from Connecticut, Elizabeth Warren, Democrat from Massachusetts, and Ron Wyden, Democrat from Oregon.

The full text of the bill is available here.

If approved in each house and signed into law by the president, the legislation would undo the federal Fair Labor Standards Act passed in 1938, which exempted truck drivers from being paid overtime for all the hours they work. 

In response to an Executive Order by President Joe Biden, the Department of Transportation issued a Freight and Logistics Supply Chain Assessment in February 2022. Among its recommendations, the department called for the repeal the Fair Labor Standards Act's motor carrier exemption.

Major trucking organizations have responded to the legislation, one praising it and another condemning it.

“America’s truckers keep our nation’s economy moving, and without the hard work of these men and women, our supply chain would grind to a halt,” said Todd Spencer, president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. “Unbelievably, trucking is one of the only professions in America that is denied guaranteed overtime pay. We are way past due as a nation in valuing the sacrifices that truckers make every single day. This starts with simply paying truckers for all of the time they work. With this discount on a trucker’s time, ‘big trucking’ has led a race to the bottom for wages that treats truckers as expendable components rather than the professionals they are. We thank Senator Padilla and Representative Van Drew for fighting to right this wrong by guaranteeing overtime pay for truckers through the GOT Truckers Act. This legislation is an investment in truckers, road safety, and America.” 

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The American Trucking Associations had a considerably different reaction.

“This proposal is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to boost trial attorneys’ fees," said Chris Spear, ATA's president and CEO. "It would reduce drivers’ paychecks and decimate trucking jobs by upending the pay models that for 85 years have provided family-sustaining wages while growing the U.S. supply chain. To support this misguided legislation is a vote for supply chain chaos and the inflationary consequences for consumers. Rather than plaintiffs’ bar bailouts, lawmakers interested in actually supporting drivers could begin by fixing the nationwide truck parking shortage that costs drivers on average $5,500 in lost earnings annually.”

In introducing the legislation, Padilla said, "America’s truck drivers are on the frontlines of our economy, enduring long hours away from home, and all too often, unpaid wait time at congested ports and warehouses. That’s because, for decades, truck drivers have been excluded from overtime pay protections,.If truckers are forced to wait while on the job, they should be paid. This is not just a matter of fairness; it’s a matter of public safety. Experienced truckers are safer truckers, and better compensation will help more of them stay in the profession. It’s time we guarantee overtime for truckers.” 

The legislation drew support from two truck safety organizations.

"Repealing the overtime exemption for truck drivers is not just an economic issue, but also a safety issue. Experienced drivers are essential to keeping our roads safe, but too many are leaving the industry because they are overworked and underpaid,” said Harry Adler, principal at the Institute for Safer Trucking. “The GOT Truckers Act would help to retain experienced truck drivers by providing them with the overtime pay they deserve. This would not only improve their quality of life, but also make our roads safer for everyone.” 

Tami Friedrich, Truck Safety Coalition president said, “The FLSA Motor Carrier Exemption needlessly puts the lives of truck drivers and all roadway users at grave risk. The notion that it is acceptable for innocent people to die to avoid paying truck drivers for all their time is un-American. I am grateful to my home state Senator, Senator Padilla for taking action to eliminate this lethal loophole. The GOT Truckers Act will undoubtedly save lives and improve roadway safety for all.”