The blue-collar men and women who deliver 72 percent of America’s goods and materials would like nothing more than to enjoy the same overtime rights as employees in other industries. The Guaranteeing Overtime for Truckers Act, recently re-introduced in Congress, would effectively overturn a clause in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 that denies them access to time-and-a-half wages.
At first blush, non-salaried employees generally agree that everyone should be entitled to fair and equitable compensation for their time. But lingering opposition to paying overtime to truck drivers persists. Chris Spear, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations (ATA), reportedly opposes the Guaranteeing Overtime for Truckers Act.
“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,” Spear reportedly said. “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.”
Spear’s remarks come as something of a surprise, given organizations such as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, and other trucking industry advocacy voices have backed the measure.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration allows CDL holders to put in 11- to 14-hour days and workweeks of 60-70 hours. Regardless of whether truckers exceed eight hours in a day or 40 in a week, they are not legally entitled to time-and-a-half. That seems counterintuitive, given the men and women who keep the country’s supply chains open are not all independent contractors or owner-operators. Spear appears to base his opposition on rising truck driver wages driven by persistent driver shortages.
“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,” Spear reportedly said.
While the vocal leader at the ATA indicates truck drivers could lose money if the measure passes, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data paints a different picture. According to the BLS, the mean salary for truckers was slightly under $50,000, and hourly wages hovered around $24 per hour in 2022.