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Proposed driver overtime rule splits trucking stakeholders

Nov. 21, 2023
The Guaranteeing Overtime for Truckers Act could improve driver retention and lower insurance premiums—or saddle carriers with an insurmountable financial burden.

Federal lawmakers proposed legislation to ensure truck drivers receive overtime pay for hours worked, which if passed would end the profession’s nearly century-long exemption from national labor regulations.

The Guaranteeing Overtime for Truckers Act (GOT Act) would repeal the motor carrier provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, according to a release from Sen. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass. The proposal is in response to a 2022 Freight and Logistics Supply Chain Assessment from the Department of Transportation, itself a response to a 2021 Executive Order to assess U.S. supply chains. The report highlighted high turnover rates among truck drivers and recommended a repeal of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 motor carrier provision, which exempts drivers from overtime pay.

The proposal—H.R.6359 in the House and S.3273 in the Senate—has received mixed reactions from trucking stakeholders. Labor advocates have praised the legislation as a possible remedy to the perennial driver shortage, while critics have said it would hurt the industry and American supply chains by undercutting carriers’ bottom line.

A statement from American Trucking Associations heavily criticized the bill, claiming that it would add to already historic inflation and would lead to “supply chain chaos.”

“This proposal is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to boost trial attorneys’ fees,” said American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear. “It would reduce drivers’ paychecks and decimate trucking jobs by upending the pay models that for 85 years have provided family-sustaining wages while growing the U.S. supply chain.”

Spear added that driver wages have increased heavily over recent years, “except at Yellow, where one party’s refusal to come to the table destroyed 30,000 jobs,” he said, referencing Teamsters negotiations the critics said were the nail in the coffin for the shuttered less-than-truckload carrier.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) came out in support of the proposal, though the legislation would primarily affect company drivers, not owner-operators contracting with carriers.

“Unbelievably, trucking is one of the only professions in America that is denied guaranteed overtime pay,” OOIDA President Todd Spencer stated. “We are way past due as a nation in valuing the sacrifices that truckers make every single day. This starts with simply paying truckers for all of the time they work.”

Could the GOT Act lower motor carrier insurance rates?

One insurance expert, Cover Whale President Kevin Abramson, told FleetOwner he believed the GOT Act could lead to fewer working hours for tired and overworked truckers, leading to safer roads and therefore lowering insurance premiums.

Abramson said the legislation would improve road safety by deterring excessive working hours that lead to drowsy driving—which led to 684 deaths in 2021, according to a study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Abramson did say the effects on insurance rates “wouldn’t be instantaneous,” adding that if drivers begin to earn more overall, “Somebody’s going to have to end up with this cost,” whether that be carriers or the price the public pays for goods.

About the Author

Scott Keith

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