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Roehl Transport officials deny paying student drivers less than minimum wage

Roehl Transport officials disputed former student driver John Morales’ claim that Roehl pays student drivers less than $500 a week despite the number of hours worked.

The Trucker Staff

10/9/2013

MARSHFIELD, Wis. — The New Jersey law firm that filed suit against Roehl Transport claiming that the carrier pays student drivers less than minimum wage is no stranger to the motor carrier litigation arena.

The website of Swartz Swinder LLC of Cherry Hill, N.J., notes that the firm, which specializes in employment law, has and/or is involved in class action lawsuits against C.R. England, P.A.M. Transportation, Stevens Transport, U.S. Xpress and Werner Enterprises.

Roehl, in a prepared statement, denied the allegations.

Instead, the freight and logistics firm complies with all federal motor carrier safety regulations and state and federal wage laws, Greg Koepel, Roehl’s vice president of workforce development and administration, said Monday.

“We’re proud to be an employer that provides good paying jobs and provides training to do the work of a professional truck driver. We have been recognized by the National Survey of Driver Wages as a ‘Top Pay Carrier,’” Koepel told the Marshfield News-Herald in a prepared statement.

In a phone interview with the newspaper, Koepel disputed former student driver John Morales’ claim that Roehl pays student drivers less than $500 a week despite the number of hours worked.

A source with knowledge of the trucking industry and the Fair Labor Standards Act said the law firm appeared to be banking on the fact that Morales was a student and not yet a full-time driver, a status which the law firm claims would not be exempt for FLSA.

Student drivers are subject to federal safety regulations.

Morales was employed 10 days this year as a student driver for Roehl and claimed he was paid a flat $300 weekly rate despite working up to 70 hours a week. Morales, of Monticello, Ind., also claimed that coffee breaks, routine stops and time waiting for loads was to be logged as off-duty hours for which he wasn’t compensated.

Driving, fueling and performing routine maintenance was to be logged as on-duty and compensated time, Morales said.

Morales didn’t complete the training program and might not have left the company with an understanding of the pay plan, which is well above the $7.25 an hour minimum wage, Koepel said.

Koepel specifically denied Morales’ allegation that Roehl required him to be on duty 24 hours a day. Morales claimed he was on duty for 24 hours a day because the company required him to remain in proximity to the semi-truck and responsible for the vehicle and cargo while on an assignment that may take up to several days, something that is required of any regular or student driver, a source said.

Morales’ suit also alleged that he was on-call and should have been compensated for his off-duty time as he was still subject to company orders regarding the truck and its cargo.

While Roehl equips trucks with a sleeper compartment to facilitate Department of Transportation requirements that drivers obtain adequate sleep after 11 hours of driving, it doesn’t mandate drivers use them, Koepel said.

Everett Roehl, who was born and raised in the Marshfield area, began the family-owned company in 1962 with a single truck.

His son Rick Roehl is currently the company president.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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JB Hunt