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Bipartisan bill introduced to guarantee truck drivers overtime pay

Lobbying group representing large trucking companies says bill would boost inflation

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 guaranteed most American workers minimum wage and time-and-a-half pay if they worked more than 40 hours in one week. However, that law excluded truck drivers.

The bill introduced Thursday in both the House and Senate would nix the clause in the 1938 law that exempts motor carriers from providing overtime pay. 

In a larger study of the American freight industry, the Biden administration urged Congress to enshrine drivers with overtime pay, according to the 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 most recent effort, two Democratic senators and a bipartisan team of two House representatives are pushing for the bill. It still faces a long road ahead, which includes committee review before potential votes in front of the full House and Senate. Control of Congress is currently split, with Republicans holding the House majority while Democrats run the Senate.

Bill would furnish truck drivers with more pay but squeeze employers

A group of academics wrote for Overdrive magazine last year that passing this bill would likely benefit truck drivers and challenge employers. Truck drivers, under current federal regulations, 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’re typically paid per mile. 

Meanwhile, large trucking employers see massive turnover rates, which they typically attribute to larger lifestyle problems in the trucking industry. Others believe that this turnover rate, which averaged 94% at large truckload carriers from 1995 to 2017, is because drivers aren’t paid enough.

“There’s a retention problem,” Michael Belzer, Wayne State University professor, told FreightWaves last year. “It’s simply because you don’t pay these people. After you’re paid for working 40 hours when you really worked 65, you get to be unhappy. And that’s why they quit.”

Studies suggest that increasing pay for truck drivers reduces crash count. Reducing uncompensated work, like the hours that drivers often spend unpaid waiting at warehouses to get loaded or unloaded, also is a boon for safety and overall supply chain efficiency, studies suggest.

Trucker, safety advocacy groups embrace the bill, while American Trucking Associations slams it

Groups such as the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Teamsters union, Truck Safety Coalition and the Institute for Safer Trucking supported the bill in statements Thursday. 

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

Meanwhile, the American Trucking Associations believes that the law, if enacted, would bring about “supply chain chaos and the inflationary consequences for consumers.”

“This proposal is nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt to boost trial attorneys’ fees,” ATA CEO Chris Spear said in a Thursday statement. “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.”

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

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  1. Chris Paxton

    43 years of driving and you should know that the truck driver is the fool, working harder than anybody that all should be paid by the hour form the time you get in the truck to the time you get in your car and go home I’m thinking about 65.00 per hour and maybe you can get the same house as the owner has

  2. Terry Green

    These days the exact time and location of trucks are known 24/7. Make shippers and receivers responsible for paying drivers for time spent at their location and they’ll reduce the added costs with increased efficiency. This increases driver pay without stressing trucking companies and streamlines the supply chain.

  3. Roy Frabel

    This is mostly BS as almost all owner operators dont get paid by hour. Only union drivers fed ex ups would benefit.. the people who pay by mile or % of load dont pay over time. This bill is a carrot for unions who support demon rats

  4. Lawrence Larsen

    Without normal compensation, for hours worked the supply chain logistics deficiencies will continue. Why, because there currently are no incentives to increase efficiencies. Just like the cost to manufacture an item, the true cost are all the cost to bring a commodity to service. By levelling the playing field with total hours being compensated, supply chains will have the numbers they need to find value to alternatives ways for service, thus increase efficiencies where efficiencies are needed.

  5. Bill Ferguson

    Overtime pay to truckers is way overdue. Shippers and transport companies take advantage of the drivers by making them wait to get unloaded and loaded. Trucking companies send drivers out knowing the drivers are going to have to sit and wait at the dock. If some of those fat boys sitting at a desk had to show the patience that the drivers are forced to show and miss family time, there wouldn’t be any shipping clerks or dispatchers. Give the drivers there due pay just like the rest of the workers in America!

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Rachel Premack

Rachel Premack is the editorial director at FreightWaves. She writes the newsletter MODES. Her reporting on the logistics industry has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Vox, and additional digital and print media. She's also spoken about her work on PBS Newshour, ABC News, NBC News, NPR, and other major outlets. If you’d like to get in touch with Rachel, please email her at [email protected] or [email protected].