TCA returns what MCA denies: Some truck drivers must receive an overtime pay

December 28, 2017
semi truck in a highway

Interstate truck drivers working with vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less are definitely entitled to an overtime pay. This is a change from the past norm which all drivers should know by now to ensure they are actually enjoying it.

The Motor Carrier Act (MCA) generally exempts from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s required overtime pay the truck drivers, or similar employees, who are under the Secretary of Transportation’s power to establish qualifications and maximum hours of service. But since 2008, it has been changed or amended after Congress injected ‘corrections’ through the Technical Corrections Act (TCA).

The TCA removed from MCA’s list of exempt workers the individuals employed by a motor carrier or motor private carrier whose work, “in whole or in part,” affects the safe operation of motor vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less on public highways in interstate commerce.

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Last November 16, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of such truck drivers being entitled to an overtime pay. The Fourth Circuit has jurisdiction over Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. Its decision reversed the earlier district court dismissal of the drivers’ complaint. The lower court had cited the MCA.

“Professional motor carriers, like Schmidt Baking Company, generally are exempt from the FLSA’s requirement that employers pay “overtime” wages for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week.  However, Congress recently waived this exemption for motor carrier employees whose work, in whole or in part, affects the safety of vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less,” wrote Judge Barbara Milano Keenan.

Having reviewed the truck drivers’ case, the Fourth Circuit Court concluded that the complaining drivers did in fact fell under the group of employees protected by TCA and thus are entitled to overtime wages for hours worked in excess  of  40 hours per week.

Since 2008, truck drivers or other motor employees and the courts have had to work with a legally undefined phrase “in whole or in part.” Just how much is “in part” for employees to seek an overtime pay? That question has proved tricky among employees of interstate trucking with a mixed fleet of vehicles.

Contributing to the truck drivers’ difficulty in getting their overtime pay was the influential questioning posed by the Seventh Circuit of the Court of Appeals on the wisdom of dividing jurisdiction over drivers of trucks based on weight. This questioning seemed to have a sway in some district courts’ decisions against truck drivers. But in 2015, the TCA started to gain traction as drivers increasingly began winning their cases for an overtime pay. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals (covering Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and the Virgin Islands) in 2015 veered away from the Seventh Circuit’s questioning.

Judge Fuentes from the Third Circuit noted in a decision on a similar case of truckers that regardless of what the phrase means as the minimum, it, of course, covers drivers who spend half of their time driving smaller vehicles.

Last November, the Fourth Circuit agreed with the Third Circuit Court and ruled in favor of the truckers despite the lower court’s decision to apply the MCA exemption on them.

“In McMaster v. Eastern Armored Services, Inc., 780 F.3d 167 (3d Cir. 2015), the Third Circuit held that a driver employed by a motor carrier was entitled to overtime compensation under the FLSA because she spent part of her work week driving a vehicle weighing less than 10,000 pounds,” Judge Keenan of the Fourth Circuit said.

In the case brought to the Fourth Circuit, drivers Ronald Schilling, Russell Dolan, and Jonathan Hecker allegedly spent 70% to 90% of their time driving smaller vehicles. The court concluded that the TCA exception would apply and so, the drivers are entitled to an overtime pay.

“The text of the TCA plainly provides that employees working on mixed fleet vehicles are covered by the TCA exception,” the Fourth Circuit said.

The Department of Labor had also issued a guidance saying a driver is entitled to overtime for any week in which he spends any time driving a vehicle weighing 10,000 or less pounds.

If you or a person close to you are in a similar situation as truck driver Ronald Schilling, don’t hesitate to pursue your proper pay. Click here for advice or consult with the FLSA lawyers of Brown, LLC. Call Main: 1(877) 561-0000, Fax: 1 (855) JTB-LAWS.