Overtime for truckers: A behind-the-scenes look at proposed legislation

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Overtime for truckers: A behind-the-scenes look at proposed legislation
Both the House and Senate are considering legislation that would require motor carriers to compensate truck drivers for overtime. How could this impact the industry?

This story was updated Dec. 20, 2023, to specify that only industries regulated by the FMCSA would be impacted by the proposed legislation.

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senate bill 3273 (S 32273), introduced on Nov. 9, 2023, by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) was a notable exception to the bills containing hundreds, even thousands, of pages that often reach the ears of the nation’s legislators.

Instead, S 3273, known as the Guaranteed Overtime for Truckers (GOT) Act, consists of just a single page. On that single page, Padilla’s proposal was summed up in in a single, succinct sentence: “Section 13(b)(1) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 (29 U.S.C. 213(b)(1)) is repealed.”

This particular section of the FLSA excludes truck drivers from qualifying for overtime pay. Its repeal would, as the bill’s name suggests, guarantee overtime compensation for commercial drivers.

Also on Nov. 9, a similar resolution, HR 6359, was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“America’s truck drivers are on the front lines of keeping goods and our economy moving. More than 70% of goods across the United States are shipped by truck,” Padilla stated when introducing the bill on the Senate floor. In addition, he noted that the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting supply chain crisis “exacerbated longstanding challenges for truckers, including long hours away from home and time spent waiting — often unpaid — to load and unload at congested ports, warehouses, and distribution centers.”

In addition to improving the nation’s ports and supply chain infrastructure through the bipartisan infrastructure law, he said, it is important to “improve wages and working conditions for essential workers and ensure they are paid for all of the hours they work.”

Industry response

Speaking out in support of the bills, Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien said, “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.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association (OOIDA) also supports the legislation.

“It’s hard to think of many professions where employees must be on the clock but not fully compensated for their time,” said Todd Spencer, president of OOIDA. “But this is the reality that many truckers face because of the FLSA overtime exemption. Shippers, receivers, carriers and others throughout the supply chain hardly have to think twice when they push truckers to work 60, 70 or 80 hours in a week — because they know they won’t have to pay overtime.”

American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear does not agree.

“This proposal is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to boost trial attorneys’ fees,” Spear said. “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.”

Dave Williams, chairman of the Truckload Carriers Association and senior vice president of equipment and government affairs for Knight-Swift Transportation, calls the legislation a case of “good intentions with unintended consequences.”

“The proposed overtime bill would force additional costs on the carrier and hope the carrier finds a way to pass on those costs to the shipper,” Williams said.

In a recent interview with The Trucker, Padilla described his reason for sponsoring the bill, saying, “I think it is pretty simple and straightforward … a lot of other workers and a lot of other industries get paid overtime for their time and their work. Truckers deserve the same, but for reasons I don’t understand, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 exempted many truckers from overtime protections, including overtime compensation.”

The logistics of trucker overtime

While the premise of the bill might be simple and straightforward, the implementation would be anything but. One of the first hurdles to clear will be figuring out how — and even if — current Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations permitting 11 hours of driving during a 14-hour work period and 60 hours of work in a seven-day period (or 70 in an eight-day period) would mesh with eight-hour workdays and 40-hour work weeks.

There are many questions to be considered, the most obvious being: If this legislation becomes law, would carriers adjust drivers’ hours to avoid payment of overtime?

Doing so would drastically increase the number of trucks and drivers needed to haul the same amount of freight — in a market where company drivers are already hard to come by.

Over-the-road drivers regularly work 60 or more hours every week rather than 40. It’s likely that paying the generally accepted time-and-a-half overtime rate for 20-plus hours per driver per week would result in drastic changes to the rates carriers charge their customers. How would customers be billed for additional time spent in traffic or shut down due to weather conditions when rates are agreed to before loads are picked up? Potential overtime costs would need to be built into the rates.

Padilla indicated that the sponsors of the GOT Act would leave those questions to the industry.

“We’re not being prescriptive in how the large carriers, or any carrier, frankly, will comply with ensuring overtime pay,” he said. “For those (carriers) that are already compensating idle time — or any type of overtime — good for them. That should be the standard, not the privilege of just the drivers who work for them. It should be the standard across the industry, and it’s in everybody’s interest.”

Padilla says he understands that motor carriers are not always responsible for hours-long delays experienced by their drivers.

“You have issues of idle time, for example, at ports when trucks are being loaded and unloaded. You do have issues of traffic. I come from the state of California — specifically the city of Los Angeles — where I see truckers having to battle through traffic many times during the day,” he said. “So, time worked is not always equivalent with vehicle miles traveled.

“Those are just two examples of the inefficiencies in the supply chain that workers are victims of because they’re not being fairly compensated for the time and the work that they’re putting in,” he continued. “Ensuring that truckers can earn overtime pay for their overtime work is only right.”

Shifting to the perspective of motor carriers, the pay structure itself would need to be changed if these bills become law. Overtime pay is based on an hourly wage, while most over-the-road truckers are paid on either a cents-per-mile basis or receive a certain percentage of the profit from each load. At a minimum, carriers would need to adopt a combination of strategies, adding overtime hourly pay to the current system — or even change their pay systems entirely.

There’s also the question of how owner-operators and independent contractors might be compensated. Because these drivers are self-employed, they are not bound by overtime rules. However, the implementation of overtime compensation could benefit these drivers.

If carriers are required to pay overtime to company drivers, the result, as noted earlier, would likely be increased rates for their customers. These increased rates might create a competitive advantage for owner-operators and independent contractors. Another factor would occur if carriers reduce drivers’ hours to contain overtime costs, resulting in reduced capacity in the market, further driving rates up.

Then, if more drivers purchase trucks and become owner-operators to take advantage of higher rates, the FMCSA’s task of monitoring carriers becomes more difficult.

The safety factor

Industry safety groups have come out in favor of the bill, claiming that it would increase safety. Certainly, a case can be made that reducing driving hours to avoid overtime pay could ensure that drivers get more rest, enhancing safety efforts.

“When (carriers are) looking at their bottom line versus what’s in the best interest of truckers — or frankly, safety on the road when truckers have to put in more time to get the work done — that’s not always good for road safety,” Padilla said. “There may be a concern about either increased costs or … shifting costs. What I believe will happen is incentives will appear to (create) more efficiency throughout the supply chain.

“Let’s tackle the idle time and the inefficiencies when trucks are being loaded or unloaded at ports or at warehouses,” he continued. “Because right now, there’s no intent to cut down on that time that keeps truckers idle.”

There’s yet another side to the issue: Carriers that reduce their drivers’ hours to avoid paying overtime will need to put more trucks on already congested roads to meet customers’ deadlines and demands. Because of this, parking, which is already a driver’s nightmare in some areas of the U.S., will become an even bigger problem. None of these enhance industry safety.

Undoubtedly, drivers would benefit from the increased pay resulting from the passage of the GOT Act. Some argue that it’s only fair that drivers receive the same wage protections as workers in other industries. Higher pay could attract more drivers to the industry, helping alleviate the driver shortage complained about by large carriers and trucking associations.

At the same time, the aforementioned increased freight rates would undoubtedly result would add to inflationary pressures on the economy, increasing the cost of everything that moves by truck.

Although the FLSA exempts numerous employees in a variety of industries over which the Department of Transportation has jurisdiction, the provisions of S 32273 and HR 6359 apply only to those regulated by the FMCSA.

A bipartisan issue

Padilla says support for the bill is bipartisan, although at the time of this writing no Republican senators have officially thrown support behind the Senate version. Cosponsors include Sens. Edward Markey (D-MA), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

However, the House version of the bill is sponsored by Rep. Jefferson Van Drew, a New Jersey Republican, and cosponsored by Rep. Mark Takana, a Democrat from California.

“Every community is served by truckers — it’s red states, it’s blue states. It’s red towns, it’s blue towns. This is not a partisan issue,” Padilla said.

Regardless of where one stands on the issue, there are a million questions that must be answered before the GOT Act becomes effective in the trucking industry. While the bill guarantees overtime pay for truckers, it also guarantees something else — a watershed moment for the trucking industry.

Cliff Abbott

Cliff Abbott is an experienced commercial vehicle driver and owner-operator who still holds a CDL in his home state of Alabama. In nearly 40 years in trucking, he’s been an instructor and trainer and has managed safety and recruiting operations for several carriers. Having never lost his love of the road, Cliff has written a book and hundreds of songs and has been writing for The Trucker for more than a decade.

Avatar for Cliff Abbott
Cliff Abbott is an experienced commercial vehicle driver and owner-operator who still holds a CDL in his home state of Alabama. In nearly 40 years in trucking, he’s been an instructor and trainer and has managed safety and recruiting operations for several carriers. Having never lost his love of the road, Cliff has written a book and hundreds of songs and has been writing for The Trucker for more than a decade.
For over 30 years, the objective of The Trucker editorial team has been to produce content focused on truck drivers that is relevant, objective and engaging. After reading this article, feel free to leave a comment about this article or the topics covered in this article for the author or the other readers to enjoy. Let them know what you think! We always enjoy hearing from our readers.


I recommend the easiest and most affordable solution would be some generous tax breaks. This way every OTR driver will be compensated rather that having runs cut short to stay below 40 hours or whatever timeframe that will be set

The only fix here would be over time vouchers that every shipper and receiver had to purchase directly from the government for the same price they were worth to the drivers or even an added tax on that so the government gets their cut and can regulate that. Brokers, Dispatchers, and Company’s wouldn’t be able to take any off the top with shippers and receivers handing out vouchers for overtime hours at each shipper or receiver that the driver can bring to the bank and deposits as a check or turn in for cash. Anything else would change the payment structure too much, and this is a double edged sword, cuts taking some off the top and gives shippers and receivers a reason to speed it up, because we all know they need the push or its gonna stay the way it is.

Overtime is beneficial. Maybe it would affect big accidents as well. Trucking can be an exhausting job. 11-14 are long days to endure

The impact it would have on shippers and recievers is a non argument . they have to pay their employees OT after 40 hours,why not the trucker? I’m tired of hearing these large trucking companies crying poor. this industry needs a massive compensation overhaul,but with the swindlers in this industry it probably won’t be for the goid of the trucker will be many hoops to jump through just to be compensated

Right now there is no recouping additional payroll expense in increasing rates. For the last 18 months it has been a race to the bottom on freight rates, and carriers that don’t have a low cost of operating are going out of business by the thousands. This idea to pay drivers overtime has been around for a while and the math carriers will use to make it revenue neutral isn’t that hard to figure out. A relatively low hourly wage of $11 – $14, when combined with time and a half comes out to, or just below what is being made now by drivers. The industry can make the switch to over time pay, at least for employee drivers, but I would not hold my breath on it creating a discernable difference in driver take home pay.

load brokers percentage should be capped by Gov regulations at something much lower, after all it is just phone calls, shippers and receivers should pay hourly to the drivers for wait time, lumpers should be illegal and as for traffic delays well that’s just the nature of the beast. I like this idea but we pay too much now for goods as it is. if we cut brokers rates and eliminate lumpers it won’t even out but would help with transportation costs and drivers take home pay.

Being held up at a shipper or receiver, is the main problem they need to have a two hour window from the time you arrive. They have two hours to unload or load your rig and have you back on the road someplace and leave me there for hours

I just want the tax breaks once given to truckers restored. Food, equipment, clothing, and hotel costs, once gave truckers a life raft to keep us afloat. Instead the government gave those breaks to the trucking company to supposedly give us as a per diem. The first year I lost $7,000.00+ to higher taxes. I just wish these government do-gooders would cut their own wasteful spending.

well I can say this as a driver of almost two decades I can’t imagine losing half my paycheck when my small company can’t afford the overhead and cuts week in half to not pay overtime right now I work an average of 60 hours a week however I am salaried at 2400 a week so now I highly doubt that I would give that up for lower hours and hopes of overtime no thank you to me the real issue is all the people who settle for less then they deserve mega carrier drivers only need to strike one time I bet they would receive what they ask for to get on the road again there is very little trucker unity we don’t ban together like assembly plants so to strike power for change is in number and unity as stated we move over 70 percent of the countries freight one day down unified would make huge difference to equality in pay but mandates on overtime will hurt the drivers who have worked there butts off to make the 6 figure salaries a year and I for one don’t think it’s that hard to see why fix what’s not broken if your pays bad find better job or put together a strike against your companies but dont speak for all of us who have figured out the system and how to make real money

randall kniess your very right we used to get great tax breaks clothes food expenses and every different state we ran got different percent taxes was really nice but like you said government wants to screw us over and just like we were supposed to get some big bonus like doctors and nurses did during COVID as front front liners yet nothing at all and we didn’t get to stop working at all not one day missed anyhow I fully agree with your statement..

Look no overtime pay period, bad idea that sounds good!! Here’s the problem and the answer, After 2 hr window at shippers n recievers hit them with $200 ph fee that is paid directly to driver through EFS/COMDATA instantly !! I believe and know after 30 yrs of service tis would be more applicable for drivers (company) than OT pay! BTW, how bout raising yrly pay to 90k for company drivers and be done with it!! Stop making excuses for greedy bosses and pay us truckers what we deserve!!

Look no overtime pay period, bad idea that sounds good!! Here’s the problem and the answer, After 2 hr window at shippers n recievers hit them with $200 ph fee that is paid directly to driver through EFS/COMDATA instantly !! I believe and know after 30 yrs of service tis would be more applicable for drivers (company) than OT pay! BTW, how bout raising yrly pay to 90k for company drivers and be done with it!! Stop making excuses for greedy bosses and pay us truckers what we deserve!! All that’s ever done is whine for the owners and crap on the drivers who actually make the money 4 these greedy henchmen!!

most of the comments miss a couple of points. working on commission do not receive ot.
salary pay does not pay ot.
waiting at a shipper or receiver is already covered by detention, but rarely received. self-employed do not get ot.
The most likely to benefit are company regular route drivers.

Hourly pay has already become a new choice on how to get paid at some companies. They will benefit the most. I think it will benefit some and the eld will be their time card. It might slow down some drivers without the use of limiters. Most however, will not see changes right away. The caveat would be if the government forces a minimum wage based on the eld. That would be a huge change to company driver pay.

they can start also by reintroducing per diem that they took away from drivers as a tax benefit.. the $63 deduction per day even company drivers could use for meals and laundry and other minor necessities drivers could write off for days out over road away from home .. it is not much but helps drivers greatly.. . drivers otr 100 days. could deduct $6300 from taxes .. if 300 days almost $18900 from taxes . ..

return per diem and continue with the automatic overtime and other benefits due drivers..