As reported by the New York Times, there is little doubt that many of America’s long-haul truck drivers are getting a raw deal even though corporations are earning record profits.
Even though long-haul truckers are working longer hours, according to the same article they are earning about $10,000 less today than workers in that industry earned in 1979 (adjusted for present values). Much of the increased work time is blamed on idle hours waiting to pick up cargo or make deliveries.
The MCA Exemption
While over the road or long-haul truckers are generally not due overtime wages when they work more than 40 hours per week pursuant to the Motor Carrier Act Exemption, also known as the MCA Exemption, their employers must still pay them at least $7.25 per hour worked under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
As most long-haul truck drivers are paid based on a percentage of the load or by the mile, the total pay they receive for a week’s work, when divided by all hours worked, must equal at least $7.25 per hour, which is the FLSA’s current minimum wage. If that average hourly pay is less than $7.25 per hour, then the employer owes the truck driver twice the amount of unpaid minimum wages plus mandatory legal fees and costs.
If a long-haul truck driver is paid on a percentage of the load basis and receives $385 in wages for a week in which he/she worked 70 hours, the total average hourly wage for that week is $5.50. That is below the FLSA minimum wage rate. In that example, the truck driver is owed an additional $245. That amount is calculated as follows:
Step 1: Determine the Hourly Unpaid Minimum Wage Rate:
- $7.25 (the FLSA minimum wage) – $5.50 (the average hourly pay for this driver at $385/70 hours) = $1.75 per hour.
Step 2: Determine the Total Unpaid Minimum Wages:
- $1.25 per hour * 70 hours = $122.50 for unpaid minimum wages.
Step 3: Add an Amount Equal to the Unpaid Minimum Wages for Liquidated Damages:
- Back minimum wages ($122.50) plus liquidated damages ($122.50) = $245 total wages owed to the truck driver for that workweek. (Liquidated damages are a penalty for the employer’s FLSA violation).
Many employers incorrectly believe that the MCA Exemption exempts them from both the FLSA’s overtime and minimum wage provisions. However, the MCA Exemption only applies to overtime pay, not minimum wage pay.
Also, even if the company labels you as an independent contractor, and even if you sign an independent contractor agreement and write off expenses on your annual taxes, you may still be an employee in the eyes of the FLSA and entitled to at least $7.25 per hour based on all hours worked in a workweek. Federal courts affirm that “employee status” cannot be waived by workers and apply what is known as the “economic realities” test to determine if a worker has been misclassified as an independent contractor. See page discussing employee versus independent contractor analysis to learn more.
While this article focuses on minimum wage pay, some truck drivers are also due overtime pay depending on the specific facts. While that is a detailed topic for another blog, Baron & Budd attorney Allen Vaught obtained an approximate $3.75 million verdict for 108 oilfield 18 wheeler truck drivers that the employer incorrectly classified as not due overtime pay under the MCA Exemption. See Olibas v. Native Oilfield Servs., LLC, 104 F. Supp. 3d 791 (N.D. Tex. 2015), aff’d sub nom. Olibas v. Barclay, 838 F.3d 442 (5th Cir. 2016). Learn more about the MCA Exemption for overtime pay.
The employment law attorneys at Baron & Budd have represented thousands of employees throughout the United States. The attorneys at Baron & Budd are known and respected for their results and experience in the field of employment law. If you think that your employer might not be paying you all wages you are owed, including tips, overtime wages, or minimum wages, please contact us at 866-238-4143 or complete our contact form for a free and confidential case evaluation. There is no out of pocket cost to you for a consultation to learn more about your state or federal employment protections.