In The News

A Swing and a Drive!

By Brandon Scott - Staff Writer
Posted May 4th 2022 8:00AM

Finally, it appears as though someone is willing to step up to the plate and take a healthy cut on behalf of the American trucker. On April 14th, U.S. Rep. Andy Levin of Michigan introduced legislation for commercial drivers called the Guaranteeing Overtime for Truckers Act. Whether this swing is going to connect, remains to be seen. However, if solid contact is made, this act could turn into a homerun for truck drivers across the country.

Where’s the Protection?

Since 1938, the Fair Labor and Standards Act has entitled minimum wage and time-and-a-half pay for workers putting in at least 40 hours of labor in a week. Unfortunately, this excluded truck drivers from qualifying for the same perks and benefits enjoyed by the general workforce. A foul, indeed.

However, the Motor Carrier Act of 1935 had already been protecting drivers to the extent of detailing how many hours a trucker could drive per day/week. So, it didn’t seem like a change-up was in order at that time. Not until 1980, when President Jimmy Carter signed a new Motor Carrier Act. The thought at that time was to deregulate the industry in order to pass along inflationary savings to the American consumer, estimated to the tune of $8 billion dollars per year. That was the fastball! But the curveball that wasn’t expected is what left drivers riding the pine. The deregulation hurt drivers as they were soon-to-be taken advantage of by the system.

Overtime Ain’t Extra Innings, But It’s Close.

Today’s truck drivers are mostly paid by the mile, with some hourly pay exceptions being determined by individual companies and carriers. Largely, though, the idea is that commercial drivers are supposed to be properly compensated for the work they do, the miles they drive. Only that’s hardly the case when the traditional 40 hours-per-week mentality doesn’t apply to the majority of a workforce that’s already pitching on little rest and wearing down by the mid-innings.

The proposed Guaranteeing Overtime for Truckers Act should help drivers reach a point where standard pay would entail truckers being compensated for the miles they drive, as well as hours worked. This would include layover time, detention and other instances that may keep a driver on a daily pitch-count when it comes to managing an HOS (Hours of Service) clock.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part.

It’s not only the hurry-up and wait approach, in which drivers have to hang around at docks and warehouses in anticipation of when they’ll be loaded or unloaded, that keeps truckers hoping that they’ll soon be off and running. It’s the wonder that goes along with the prospect of such a bill passing with its highest intentions intact.

To say there’s a driver shortage is surely an understatement; it’s a subject that’s been touched on in these columns quite regularly. But if the aforementioned bill is indeed a homerun for commercial drivers, then perhaps it will put a sizable dent in the amount of turnover many carriers see from their trucking lineup. Of course, a grand slam would be the best-case scenario. But sometimes you have to foul off a few good pitches until you finally get the grooved fastball you’re looking for. Patience at the plate, that’s all that’s asked to this point.

Like many instances in life, it’s smart to look for the fastball but always wait on the curve. The U.S. government is currently at the plate, while truck drivers are waiting on-deck.

It’s time to swing, batter-batter, swing!