The US DOT is asking Congress for authority to require carriers to pay drivers an hourly minimum wage for time spent on duty but not driving, namely when waiting idle during periods of detention – signaling the federal government’s first attempt in decades to weigh into driver pay regulations.
According to Fleet Owner magazine, the driver compensation measure is one of more than 30 provisions included in the Grow America Act’s Title V, but it’s the main measure to catch the industry’s eye.
The proposal follows a statement earlier this year by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne S. Ferro that she believes driver detention and delays by shippers is a safety issue and the agency is prepared to introduce regulatory measures to put a stop to it.
Although the proposal refers to drivers being “frequently detained for extended periods at shippers or receivers’ facilities,” the language covers any time on duty but not driving. It does, however, carve out an exception if on-duty, not-driving time is already covered under a collective bargaining agreement.
The proposed legislation “will ensure fair pay for long-distance bus and truck drivers who are often paid by the miles they travel, not their total time on-duty, and face economic pressure to jeopardize safety by driving beyond the mandatory limits,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro in DOT’s announcement of the Grow America Act.
The measure has a long, uphill climb, but it isn’t being ignored by industry groups.
“That’s clearly the biggest policy change in the motor carrier provisions and one we are clearly concerned about,” American Trucking Associations Executive Vice President Dave Osiecki told FleetOwner.
In a news release, ATA stated that DOT’s proposal focuses far more on rail than trucking, except “in the administration’s announcement … to impose a one-size-fits-all compensation model on an incredibly diverse industry” – an “extraordinarily misguided proposal” that ATA calls “disheartening.”
FMCSA has several studies in progress on the effects of detention and driver pay on trucking safety, but they are not scheduled to be completed until late 2015.
For FMCSA to request this legislation now prejudges the outcome of those studies, Osiecki told FleetOwner.
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) has also generated attention on the issue of detention time. In the last Congress, he too introduced a bill that would have required DOT to set standards for the maximum number of hours that driver could be detained by a shipper or receiver without compensation before the loading or unloading of the vehicle. The bill was not advanced in Congress.