ATA Criticizes Legislative Proposal on Trucker Compensation

Guaranteeing Overtime for Truckers Act Was Recently Introduced
truck driver
(welcomia/Getty Images)

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American Trucking Associations is leading opposition to legislation in Congress aiming at recasting how certain commercial drivers are compensated.

The recently introduced Guaranteeing Overtime for Truckers Act would disrupt existing compensation structures between an employer and employee, as well as potentially interfere with supply chain connectivity, the leadership at ATA said in response to the legislation.

“This proposal is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to boost trial attorneys’ fees. 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,” said Chris Spear, ATA president, shortly after the bill’s introduction in November. “Truckload drivers today are earning nearly $70,000 on average plus benefits, and wages across the board continue to rise at historic rates year-over-year — except at Yellow, where one party’s refusal to come to the table destroyed 30,000 jobs. The bill would not affect owner-operators, who, as independent contractors, are not covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act.”

Chris Spear


Spear, emphasizing the legislation’s potential impact on a supply chain recovering from pandemic-related disruptions, added, “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.”

Specifically, the Guaranteeing Overtime for Truckers Act would repeal a section of the Fair Labor Standards Act specific to certain commercial drivers in regard to overtime compensation. The measure, which was referred to legislative committees for consideration, would essentially undo an overtime exemption. A vote on its consideration has not been scheduled.

Reacting to the bill, Nathan Mehrens, vice president for workforce policy at ATA, told Transport Topics, “This is a solution in search of a problem.”

“This is not going to actually guarantee anything, even though that’s in the title. And truckers are already doing pretty good in the compensation models that are in place,” Mehrens continued. “So, again, no showing of need has been made for making this very substantial change that would literally upend the compensation models of the entire industry.”

Democratic Sens. Alex Padilla of California and Ed Markey of Massachusetts are the measure’s lead sponsors.


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“America’s truck drivers are on the front lines 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,” Padilla said on Nov. 9. “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.”

“From the food we eat to the medical supplies we use in our daily lives, truck drivers make sure consumer goods and commodities reach their destination on time,” Markey added. “However, for almost a hundred years, obsolete labor regulations have denied truck drivers their rightful pay, leading to high turnover and supply chain disruptions.”

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Groups endorsing the measure include the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

A companion measure in the House of Representatives is sponsored by Reps. Jeff Van Drew (R-N.J.) and Mark Takano (D-Calif.). “Truckers have been left out of overtime opportunities due to archaic standards,” Takano said. “The impact of truckers on the supply chain to get Americans the goods they rely on entitles these workers to competitive wages. In an industry plagued with high turnover, the most common-sense solution is to guarantee overtime pay to drivers.”