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Driver overtime rule proposal splits trucking

Nov. 27, 2023
Guaranteeing Overtime for Truckers Act could improve driver retention, lower insurance premiums—or saddle carriers with an insurmountable financial burden

New legislation proposed by federal lawmakers to ensure truck drivers are paid for the overtime hours they work would end the profession's long-standing exemption from national labor regulations if approved.

The Guaranteeing Overtime for Truckers Act (GOT Act) would repeal the motor carrier provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, according to a release from Sen. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass. The proposal is in response to a 2022 Freight and Logistics Supply Chain Assessment from the Department of Transportation, itself a response to a 2021 Executive Order to assess U.S. supply chains. The report highlighted high turnover rates among truck drivers and recommended a repeal of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 motor carrier provision, which exempts drivers from overtime pay.

The proposal—H.R.6359 in the House and S.3273 in the Senate—has received mixed reactions from trucking stakeholders. Labor advocates have praised the legislation as a possible remedy to the perennial driver shortage, while critics have said it would hurt the industry and American supply chains by undercutting carriers’ bottom line.

A statement from American Trucking Associations heavily criticized the bill, claiming that it would add to already historic inflation and would lead to “supply chain chaos.”

“This proposal is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to boost trial attorneys’ fees,” said American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear. “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.”

Spear added that driver wages have increased heavily over recent years, “except at Yellow, where one party’s refusal to come to the table destroyed 30,000 jobs,” he said, referencing Teamsters negotiations the critics said were the nail in the coffin for the shuttered less-than-truckload carrier.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) came out in support of the proposal, though the legislation would primarily affect company drivers, not owner-operators contracting with carriers.

“Unbelievably, trucking is one of the only professions in America that is denied guaranteed overtime pay,” OOIDA President Todd Spencer stated. “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.”

Read more at FleetOwner.com, a Bulk Transporter affiliate.