Not a direct order of Biden but instead implemented by people he approved within the Department of Labor, the regulations regarding off-time pay is shifting back to what it was before the Trump administration.
Should drivers traveling across the country be compensated for their downtime, considering they are never truly off when on a business trip thousands of miles away from home? The Department of Labor in 2019 wrote an opinion letter of guidance that can be briefly summarized as “no.” While this letter interpreting regulations was never enforced as law, the current Wages and Hour Division (WHD) of the Department of Labor feels that taking the letter off the table will reduce confusion moving forward.
The Biden administration aims for the rules that existed before the 2019 letter, stating:
- In a trip totaling 24 hours or longer, only eight hours maximum per day could not be counted as paid time.
- In a trip lower than 24 hours, all time spent in the sleeper berth still needed to be compensable.
For a scenario in which this would apply, a trucker hauling seven hours one way takes an overnight rest for eight hours before driving back. The entire trip totaling 22 hours means the eight hours of sleep are still compensable.
The news comes hot off the heels of the PAM Transport Wage Class Action Lawsuit, in which plaintiffs claimed that under the Fair Labor Standards Act and minimum wage laws in the state of Arkansas, drivers must be paid at least minimum wage for all hours worked, including staying near the truck to protect the asset and the cargo it was carrying. Pam Transport settled for $16.5 million.
By withdrawing the letter from 2019, the WHD is making federal regulations more in line with the example from Arkansas and hopes to reduce confusion.
This decision may appear to bode well for company drivers, but it could have negative externalities. Whereas truckers may have previously focused on just getting the job done and taking an extra thirty minutes of sleep to get ready for the day if needed, companies may now put extra pressure on their drivers to not take extra time at all.
Whatever the case, this system of sleeper berth pay worked before the 2019 letter, and will most likely continue to work going forward.