OOIDA presses regulators on detention time pay, truck parking

Owner-operators told federal regulators that repealing an 80-year-old law preventing them from collecting overtime pay could help alleviate the negative effects of increasing detention times at destination facilities.

“Unfortunately, drivers’ times aren’t valued, especially by shippers and receivers,” said Lewie Pugh, vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), speaking at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Truck Safety Summit this week.

“It’s a tough call for (FMCSA) because you don’t have oversight unfortunately with shippers and receivers,” he told FMCSA Deputy Administrator Jim Mullen. “Some of this we need to see take place probably with Congress. We definitely would like to see the Fair Labor Standards Act [FLSA] exemption for overtime done away with. Maybe that would help some, where drivers have to be paid for the time that they put in.”

In 1938, the FLSA exempted the trucking industry from overtime compensation, which meant companies are not required to pay overtime, a provision meant to protect employers from having to compensate for work that could not be accounted for. But electronic logging devices make driver hours more transparent, giving employers better visibility into how and when detention is affecting driver productivity.

Pugh noted that the recent $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill passed by the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives includes provisions for studying the causes of detention times and puts limits on detention times by shippers if drivers are not compensated. “We were very excited about that,” Pugh said, however, “something has to be done.”

OOIDA, which included the issue of overtime pay in a wide-ranging letter to congressional leaders in May, pointed out in formal comments filed with FMCSA this week that detention time is “both a safety and financial concern” for drivers and small-business trucking companies.

“In addition to the lost hours and wages, there are other hidden costs throughout the supply chain that are detrimental to highway safety and the economics of the profession,” OOIDA asserted. “Logistical uncertainties from detention time prevent drivers from accurately planning trips, finding safe places to park, and making it in time to pick-up their next load. This contributes to increased driver dissatisfaction and turnover which undermines the overall safety and efficiency of the industry.”

Mullen also sought Pugh’s opinion on truck parking, asking whether hours-of-service (HOS) modifications will make it easier to find available parking.

“I don’t think [HOS changes] will make that big of a difference,” Pugh responded. “I think truck parking is at such a crisis, with such overcapacity of trucks compared to the amount of available space for them, it’s really not going to make a difference. I think some of the split sleeper [changes] will give drivers a little more flexibility, but I still think most are going to be driving and sleeping at the same time like they are now.”

The truck parking shortage was acknowledged at the summit by Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) chief Nicole Nason, who called it a “major transportation safety problem with implications for the safety of everyone on the highways — not just the women and men who drive trucks, but motorists as well.”

She pointed to funding that FHWA has provided to develop truck parking capacity, as well as truck parking information systems that inform drivers about parking availability. “We will continue to encourage and fund projects to help expand truck parking availability as the economy improves,” she said.

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