Motor Carrier Act Exemption2018-09-12T14:45:23+00:00

Overtime Exemption for Certain Truck Drivers, Driver Helpers, Loaders, and Mechanics – The Motor Carrier Act Exemption

Certain drivers, driver helpers, loaders, and mechanics are not due overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act due to the Motor Carrier Act (“MCA”) Exemption.

Baron & Budd attorney Allen Vaught obtained a $3.75 million verdict for approximately 108 oilfield truck drivers, which the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld. See Olibas v. Barclay, 838 F.3d 442 (5th Cir. 2016). Please contact Baron & Budd at 866-238-4143 for specific questions or evaluations at no cost to you.

Unlike most FLSA Exemptions, there are a lot of differing opinions among federal courts when it comes to the MCA Exemption. The MCA Exemption has many subparts that the employer must prove in order to not pay overtime wages. Here are a few highlights:

  • Generally applies to large trucks (more than 10,000 pounds).
  • Generally applies to trucking operations that cross state lines. If the trucking operations are within one state only, then the FLSA generally requires overtime pay.
  • The FLSA’s minimum wage law (currently $7.25 per hour) always applies even if the driver, driver helper, loader, or mechanic is exempt (e. not due) overtime under the MCA Exemption.
  • If the driver, driver helper, loader, or mechanic uses a vehicle during a seven-day workweek that is 10,000 pounds or less, then the MCA Exemption generally does not apply. This is the case even if that worker uses larger vehicles in other parts of that workweek that otherwise meet the MCA Exemption test.

The MCA Exemption has three general elements.

In order for the MCA Exemption to the FLSA overtime law to apply, the employee must:

  1. Be employed by a motor carrier or motor private carrier, as defined in 49 U.S.C. Section 13102;
  2. Be a driver, driver helper, loader, or mechanic whose duties affect the safety of operation of motor vehicles in transportation on public highways in interstate or foreign commerce; and
  3. Not be covered by the small vehicle exception (i.e. 10,000 pounds or less).

Each of these elements is discussed in more detail below. Also see U.S. Department of Labor Fact Sheet

1. The MCA Exemption’s First Element – the Employer Must Be a Motor Carrier or Motor Private Carrier:

The employer must first prove that it is a motor carrier or motor private carrier in order for the MCA Exemption to apply.

Motor Carriers are persons or companies providing motor vehicle transportation for compensation.

Motor Private Carriers are persons or companies, other than motor carriers, transporting property by motor vehicle if the person is the owner, lessee, or bailee of the property being transported. In addition, the property must be transported for sale, lease, rent, or bailment, or to further a commercial enterprise. U.S. Department of Labor Fact Sheet.

That is a lot to consider. However, it can be simplified. An employer who is a motor carrier or motor private carrier will generally have a USDOT number. This number can be located by searching for the employer’s name (or USDOT number) on the website of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

2. The MCA Exemption’s Second Element – the Employee Must be a Driver, Driver Helper, Loader, or Mechanic.

The employee’s duties must include the performance, either regularly or from time to time, of safety-affecting activities on a motor vehicle. The vehicle must be used in transportation on public highways in interstate or foreign commerce. Employees must perform such duties as a driver, driver’s helper, loader, or mechanic. Employees performing such duties meet the duties requirement of the exemption regardless of the proportion of “safety-affecting activities” performed. An exception to this rule occurs if the continuing duties have no substantial direct effect on “safety of operation,” or where such safety-affecting activities are so trivial, casual, and insignificant as to be de minimis (so long as there is no change in the duties).

Transportation involved in the employee’s duties must be in interstate commerce (across state or international lines), or to connect with an intrastate terminal (rail, air, water, or land) to continue an interstate journey of goods that have not come to rest at a final destination.

Safety affecting employees who have not made an actual interstate trip may still meet the duties requirement of the exemption if:

  1. The employer is shown to have an involvement in interstate commerce; and
  2. The employee could, in the regular course of employment, reasonably have been expected to make an interstate journey or could have worked on the motor vehicle in such a way as to be safety affecting. U.S. Department of Labor Fact Sheet.

In short, the employee generally does not have to cross state lines for the MCA Exemption to apply. If there is a reasonable expectation that the employee could be indiscriminately assigned work by the employer that involves crossing state lines/interstate commerce (which has a unique test under this law), the MCA Exemption can apply even if the employee works in only one state.

The Four-Month Test Exception: The MCA Exemption applies to employees for a four-month period beginning with the date they could have been called upon to, or actually did, engage in the carrier’s interstate activities. If those job duties end after the four-month period, the exemption is generally no longer available to the employer.

This is one area that varies depending on which area of the United States you are employed. The reason is that appellate courts have different interpretations of this four-month test exception. See, e.g., Vidinliev v. Carey Int’l, Inc., 581 F. Supp. 2d 1281, 1286 (N.D. Ga. 2008) (“[T]o exempt a plaintiff from the overtime pay requirement, the defendant must show that (a) some of its drivers were involved by evidence of actual or solicited trip in interstate motor vehicle transportation, (b) the involvement with interstate motor vehicle transportation was no more than four months prior to the pay period at issue (“four-month rule”), and (c) the plaintiff did make, or could have reasonably have been expected to make, one of those interstate trips”) (citing Reich v. American Driver Serv., 33 F.3d 1153, 1156 (9th Cir. 1994); Morrison v. Quality Transports Servs., Inc., 474 F. Supp. 2d 1303, 1310 (S.D. Fla. 2007); U.S. Department of Labor, Fact Sheet # 19: The Motor Carrier Exemption under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), July 2008.

3. The MCA Exemption’s Third Element – The Employee Does Not Work With Small Vehicles.

The MCA Exemption generally does not apply to an employee of a motor carrier or motor who performs the role of a driver, driver’s helper, loader, or mechanic affecting the safety of operation of motor vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less U.S. Department of Labor Fact Sheet. This is commonly known as the “small vehicle exception.”

See also, McMaster v. E. Armored Servs., Inc., 780 F.3d 167, 170 (3d Cir. 2015) (finding operation of motor vehicles weighing less than 10,000 pounds rendered MCA Exemption inapplicable); Roche v. S-3 Pump Serv., Inc., No. 5:15-CV-268-XR, 2016 WL 51282, at *5 (W.D. Tex. Jan. 4, 2016) (“[E]ven in weeks where employees worked on vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds, those employees would still be entitled to overtime if they worked on vehicles weighing less than 10,000 pounds”); Aikins v. Warrior Energy Servs. Corp., No. 6:13-CV-54, 2015 WL 1221255, at *5 (S.D. Tex. Mar. 17, 2015) (denying summary judgment for employer on MCA exemption where oilfield workers operated Ford F-250 pickup trucks weighing 10,000 pounds or less during weeks in which they also indisputably operated large trucks weighing 10,001 pounds or more); Bedoya v. Aventura Limousine & Transp. Serv., Inc., 2012 WL 3962935, *4 (S.D. Fla. Sept. 11, 2012) (employees entitled to overtime pay under the FLSA ‘if more than a de minimis portion of the Plaintiff’s work’ is done with vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less).

So, even if an employee is a driver, driver helper, loader, or mechanic on vehicles that otherwise meet the MCA Exemption, if in any part of a seven day workweek, the employee works with a vehicle that weighs 10,000 pounds or less (think pickup truck), then that employee is entitled for FLSA overtime pay for all hours worked over 40 in that workweek.

How to measure the weight of the vehicle is an issue that varies by Court, so you should consult with Baron & Budd for a free consultation on this exemption if you want to know more about your overtime rights.

As you can see, the MCA Exemption is very complex. If you have any questions as to whether or not this Exemption applies to you, get in touch with Baron & Budd. Call 866-238-4143 or contact us online.

Example 1:

An employee is a driver for an oilfield tank truck company. The driver drives 18-wheelers that weigh more than 10,000 pounds. The employer has a USDOT number and is considered a motor carrier under the MCA Exemption. However, the services performed by the employer are limited to a few counties in Texas where water is loaded and offloaded or disposed for local oilfield operations. That driver employee is entitled to overtime pay for all hours worked (regardless of the method of pay – hourly, by the mile, by the load, etc.) because there is no reasonable expectation of crossing state lines by the employee.

Example 2:

An employee is a driver for an oilfield tank truck company. The services performed by the employer are limited to a few counties in Texas and Oklahoma where water is loaded and offloaded or disposed for local oilfield operations. The driver drives 18-wheelers that weigh more than 10,000 pounds. The employer has a USDOT number and is considered a motor carrier under the MCA Exemption. That driver employee is not entitled to overtime pay under the MCA Exemption because he or she crosses state lines.

Example 3:

The employee performs the same activities as in Example 1 but only works in Texas on an assigned route and never goes to Oklahoma. The employer has a USDOT number and is considered a motor carrier under the MCA Exemption. That driver employee is most likely entitled to overtime pay and is not exempt under the MCA Exemption because, by working an assigned route in Texas, there is no reasonable expectation that the driver will cross state lines.

Example 4:

In a given year, 95% of all work performed by all drivers of the employer is in Texas and only 5% is in Oklahoma. While the driver has never crossed state lines for the employer, the employer has a policy to randomly assign drivers jobs, including trips to Oklahoma. The employer has a USDOT number and is considered a motor carrier under the MCA Exemption. That driver-employee, along with all other drivers of the employer, is most likely not entitled to overtime pay and is exempt under the MCA Exemption. Even though that driver has never crossed state lines, and 95% of the work is in one state only, the MCA Exemption applies because there is a reasonable expectation that the driver could be indiscriminately assigned work that crosses state lines.

Example 5:

An employee is a driver for an oilfield fuel services company. The services performed by the employer are limited to a few counties in Texas and Oklahoma where fuel tanks are parked at well sites to fuel various equipment for oilfield fracking operations. The employer has a USDOT number and is considered a motor carrier under the MCA Exemption. The driver drives 18-wheelers that weigh more than 10,000 pounds when delivering those fuel tanks to and from the well site, and does this work in Texas and Oklahoma.

However, once those fuel tanks are parked at a well site, the driver then drives a Ford F-250 pickup truck that weighs less than 10,000 pounds to and from the well site to perform fueling operations until the fracking operations are complete. That driver is due overtime wages in each and every workweek that he/she drives the F-250 pickup truck due to the small vehicle exception. This is the case even though all elements of the MCA Exemption are met for other parts of that same workweek.

Example 6:

An employee is a driver for an oilfield services company. The services performed by the employer are limited to a few counties in Texas and Oklahoma where frack tanks are parked for oilfield fracking operations. The employer has a USDOT number and is considered a motor carrier under the MCA Exemption. The driver drives 18-wheelers that weigh more than 10,000 pounds when delivering those frack tanks, and does this work in Texas and Oklahoma. However, once those frack tanks are parked at a well site, the driver then drives a Ford F-250 pickup truck that weighs less than 10,000 pounds to and from the well site to monitor operations. He or she does this until the work is done. That driver is due overtime wages in each and every workweek that he/she drives the F-250 pickup truck even though all elements of the MCA Exemption are met for other parts of that same workweek.

Example 7:

An employee is a driver for an interstate freight delivery company. The services performed by the employer cover all states in the continental U.S. The employer has a USDOT number and is considered a motor carrier under the MCA Exemption. The driver drives 18-wheelers that weigh more than 10,000 pounds across state lines on a weekly basis. The driver is paid $0.27 per mile.

During one week, the driver works 65 hours. However, the driver has significant waiting time for loading operations where he/she must stay with the employer’s truck, and drives only 1,000 miles that week for the employer.

While the driver is not owed overtime wages as he/she is MCA Exempt, the FLSA’s minimum wage law, which is not covered by the MCA Exemption, has been violated. At a pay rate of $.27 per mile, the driver earned only $270 for the 1,000 miles driven that week. When dividing the $270 by the 65 hours worked, the average hourly rate is $4.15, which is less than the FLSA’s minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. That driver is owed $201.50 in back FLSA minimum wages plus $201.50 for liquidated damages (which is the penalty the employer pays for violating the FLSA), or $403 for that week. This is in addition to the $270 the driver already received.