The current pay structure and the lack of overtime was called into question during a driver compensation committee meeting on Tuesday, May 16.
OOIDA Board Members Doug Smith and Bryan Spoon and OOIDA life member Stu Hochfelder spoke out against a pay-by-the mile system that forces many drivers to work 70 hours a week to make a living wage.
“When you’re loaded, you want to get empty,” Smith said. “When you’re empty, you want to get loaded. There’s constant anxiety. This has developed into a 70 hour work week. You’re either driving or sleeping. If you’re not working, you should be sleeping.”
The National Academies of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board driver compensation committee, which was launched in January, is tasked with studying the effects of various methods of driver compensation on safety and retention, including hourly pay, pay for detention time and other pay methods in the industry.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2021 median salary for heavy-haul truck drivers was $48,310. The OOIDA members explained to the committee that the average wage looks far worse when you consider that it takes many truck drivers to work 60 or 70 hours a week to make that amount.
“We should all be paid for our time,” Hochfelder said.
The current pay-by-the-mile system means that most truck drivers are not compensated for any of the time the vehicle is being loaded or unloaded, as well as when a driver is conducting equipment checks or pumping fuel.
In addition, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 exempts motor carriers from having to pay overtime to truck drivers.
“You need to require overtime,” Smith said. “It’s just unconscionable in this day and age that we don’t have overtime for truck drivers.”
Smith added that if company drivers receive overtime that he believes those higher wages also will help owner-operators.
Spoon told the committee that the burden that is often placed on truck drivers needs to be spread out to others in the supply chain.
“My paycheck goes up and down, up and down,” Spoon said. “The trucker can’t be the one that carries all of the burden of that up and down. It’s a burden that needs to be shared.”
Removing the overtime exemption would move some of that burden onto shippers and receivers who would be forced to value a truck driver’s time, the OOIDA members told the committee.
Efforts to remove overtime exemption
Rep. Jefferson Van Drew, R-N.J., spoke out against the overtime exemption during a House Highways and Transit Subcommittee hearing last week.
“Truckers are an essential component of our nation’s supply chain and compensating them appropriately is the least we can do to support them,” Van Drew said. “Let’s be fair. Let’s be decent to the hard-working men and women who do this job.”
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association helped craft the Guaranteeing Overtime for Truckers Act in the previous congressional session. The bill is expected to be reintroduced soon. LL