A bipartisan bill introduced yesterday in both houses of Congress that would raise pay for truckers is pitting two of the freight sector’s most powerful industry groups against each other.
The Guaranteeing Overtime for Truckers Act (GOT Truckers Act) was introduced by Sens. Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Ed Markey (D-MA) in the Senate and Reps. Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ) and Mark Takano (D-CA) to ensure truckers receive overtime pay.
According to its sponsors, the legislation would ensure that truckers are compensated fairly for the hours that they are on the clock, including overtime. It would achieve that by repealing the motor carrier provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which excludes many truckers from overtime protections enjoyed by other workers. While that exemption was originally designed to prevent truckers from working too many hours, it now prevents truckers from being fairly compensated for all the hours they work, the bill’s supporters say.
Accordingly, the bill addresses a recommendation in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s 2022 “Freight and Logistics Supply Chain Assessment,” which highlighted high turnover rates and compensation issues as top challenges in the trucking industry.
The bill quickly came under criticism from the American Trucking Associations (ATA), a trucking industry trade group which represents fleet owners. In a statement, ATA President and CEO Chris Spear said the proposal would actually reduce drivers’ paychecks and lose trucking jobs by upending the current pay model. “To support this misguided legislation is a vote for supply chain chaos and the inflationary consequences for consumers. Rather than plaintiffs’ bar bailouts, lawmakers interested in actually supporting drivers could begin by fixing the nationwide truck parking shortage that costs drivers on average $5,500 in lost earnings annually,” Spear said.
However, support for the bill came from a variety of voices including the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), the Truck Safety Coalition, and the Institute for Safer Trucking.
“Unbelievably, trucking is one of the only professions in America that is denied guaranteed overtime pay,” OOIDA President Todd Spencer said in a release. “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. With this discount on a trucker’s time, ‘big trucking’ has led a race to the bottom for wages that treats truckers as expendable components rather than the professionals they are.”
Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien echoed those sentiments, saying that “Truck drivers have been denied overtime protections for nearly 100 years. The Guaranteeing Overtime for Truckers Act rights this wrong, and would end this inexcusable abuse to hundreds of thousands of drivers across the country.”