A major shipper group is closely monitoring legislation aimed at assuring overtime pay for truckers and vows to fight it vigorously if it gains traction.
Rep. Andy Levin, D-Mich., presented the Guaranteeing Overtime for Truckers Act in April, which would abolish the motor carrier exemption in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which excludes many truckers from overtime pay protections.
When introducing the bill, Levin stated, “Truck drivers across the country face terrible working conditions typified by inadequate pay and lengthy hours.”
“Despite their persistent efforts, truck drivers are not compensated for overtime hours.” As a result, the trucking sector has a very high turnover rate because truckers are unable to keep up with the relentless demands of their jobs. When truckers get paid what they are entitled, we all benefit.”
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC) are strong advocates of the initiative, which currently has seven Democratic co-sponsors and one Republican.
The National Industrial Transportation League (NITL), whose members include Cargill, Georgia-Pacific, and marine drayage business IMC, believes the bill will not gain traction. However, “if something were to happen on it, I’m sure we could move very fast to minimize it on Capitol Hill,” said Ann Warner, NITL’s government affairs director, during the group’s transportation summit on Tuesday. “We’ll continue to watch it and, if necessary, take action.”
Jeff Tucker, chairman of NITL’s highway committee and CEO of freight brokerage firm Tucker Company Worldwide, sees the legislation as a “potential threat” because “if it gains traction, and if bells and whistles are attached to it, it could stand to undo the progress we’ve made in deregulating the freight environment.”
Furthermore, if the law is passed, “in principle, drivers would have to be paid for a lot of time that they’re not now paid for, which would not be sustainable,” according to Avery Vise, VP of trucking for transportation consulting firm FTR, who also spoke at the meeting.
However, Levin and safety advocates who favor the bill argue that increasing pay indirectly improves safety since drivers are less likely to feel the need to accelerate or continue working when they are exhausted.
“I believe that when truck labor costs are fair, there are fewer incidences of driver weariness, fewer regulatory breaches, and a drop in crash rates,” Levin stated earlier this month during a TSC webinar. “As a result, it will prevent many of the tragedies that occur when truckers are compelled to work for much too long.”
Levin admitted that his idea will face opposition and that moving legislation in the current Congress is challenging. “Washington is riddled with lobbyists and people attempting to safeguard vested interests,” he remarked. “I haven’t seen any pushback yet, and it appears to have broad appeal,” he says.
He stated that his motivation for presenting the measure was strengthened by a supply chain vulnerability analysis produced by the United States Department of Transportation in February, which urged Congress to eliminate the FLSA motor carrier exception.
“That report had an impact on us.” My team is in contact with [Biden] administration officials, and we intend to bring this legislation forward with their assistance.”