Some courts are ruling that truck drivers should be paid minimum wage

Some truck drivers get
paid less than minimum wage.

David McNew/Getty

  • Many truck
    aren’t paid for all of the hours they spend
    on the road. 
  • A class action lawsuit in Arkansas of nearly 3,000 truck
    drivers argues that the practice goes against the Fair Labor
    Standards Act. 
  • Those drivers scored a major win today when the federal
    court in Arkansas ruled against motions by those
    drivers’ former employer: PAM Transport, an Arkansas trucking
    company founded in 1980. 

A federal court decision in Arkansas today may drastically change
the way truck drivers are paid.

The court ruled against PAM Transport, an Arkansas trucking
company founded in 1980, after the firm was named in a class
action suit for alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards
Act, a federal law that requires employers to pay truck
drivers at least minimum wage.

On Oct. 19, the US District Court in the Western District of
Arkansas, Fayetteville division, denied PAM’s motions to dismiss
the claims of the three truck drivers who sued PAM in 2016 and
nearly 3,000 drivers who joined the class action suit. 

That denial means that the Court has decided that the time a
driver spends waiting in his truck in the sleeper birth still
constitutes work — even though the driver may log that time as

It’s a move that speaks to other court cases appearing around the
country in favor of ensuring truck drivers are paid for every
hour they spend on the road. Last year, a Nebraska court decided
that trucking giant Werner Enterprises must pay $780,000 to
52,000 student truck drivers for alleged pay practice violations.
Another major carrier, C.R. England, paid $2.35 million in back
wages to more than 6,000 drivers
in 2016

Unlike most workers who are paid per hour or in a yearly salary,
long-haul truck drivers are typically only paid per mile of
driving. However, they spend weeks on the road for work and hours
every day doing non-driving work tasks.

And according to the US
Department of Labor
, “Any work which an employee is required
to perform while traveling must, of course, be counted as hours

Truck drivers may be on duty a maximum of 14
hours in a day
, with a maximum of 11 hours spent driving.
They are expected to wait up to two hours when unloading or
loading shipments; they are not paid for those hours waiting.
Often, they
spend even more time waiting
for their shipments to load or
unload and, even then, they are rarely paid “detention pay” for
the time spent waiting.

, the attorney representing the truck drivers in the
PAM case, told Business Insider that truck drivers might
also spend hours or days not driving because they are waiting for
shipments. They are not paid for that time. 

The Arkansas decision says that’s no longer acceptable. This case
suggests that drivers are entitled to minimum wage for 16 hours
per workday — every hour spent in the truck save for eight hours
of sleep time.

That’s because the company has hired the employee with the
knowledge that part of their job duties is waiting; the Supreme
Court has argued that those employees should be paid even
though they are not actively carrying out a work task. As
District Court Judge Timothy Brooks wrote in his Oct. 19
memorandum on the PAM case:

There is no ambiguity here, then, as to whether an employer must
count as hours worked the time that an employee spends riding in
a commercial truck while neither sleeping nor eating: time thus
spent “is working” and “any work” performed “while traveling
must… be counted as hours worked.”

What does this mean for truck drivers and their employers?

“The decision may have national implications,” Swidler told
Business Insider.

This case doesn’t necessarily mean the mile-based trucker
pay model will be overhauled. But, it does suggest that, if a
trucker isn’t paid at least minimum wage for the
60 hours
a week they work, carriers will be held

“It’s worth noting the case only stands for the proposition
that carriers must pay their drivers $7.25 per hour,” Swidler
said. “Under the FLSA, hourly wages are
considered over the course of a whole workweek. This means that
while carriers nationwide should understand their minimum wage
exposure, companies which pay reasonable wages to their drivers
have no reason for concern.”

The payout for this case hasn’t been determined
yet, Swidler said. In
PAM paid truckers $3.45 million in a similar settlement
concerning a class action suit by employees who alleged PAM
didn’t pay them minimum wage.

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