The Motor Carrier exemption to the federal overtime pay requirement relates to employees whose work involves the safety of vehicles travelling in “interstate commerce.” For example, if an employee drives an 18-wheel truck across state lines, they will typically be exempt from an entitlement to overtime pay under federal law. However, even these overtime-exempt employees are not exempt from being paid the minimum wage for all hours worked. In calculating whether that employee has been paid the minimum wage, it is necessary to factor in the cost of any unreimbursed work expenses, such as mileage, tolls, gas or lodging costs while traveling on a work haul. Unreimbursed expenses might pull an employee’s effective hourly wage below the minimum, creating a claim. Minimum wage and unreimbursed work expense issues are common when there is independent contractor misclassification.
Large Vehicles vs. Small Vehicles
The starting point is whether the employee’s work involves a vehicle within the jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation – that is, whether the truck’s Gross Vehicle Weight is more than 10,000 pounds (a large truck). As already discussed, if an employee exclusively drives large trucks across state lines, they are exempt. However, if that employee drives a small vehicle as part of their work (no matter how short a time), they will not be exempt in that workweek.
Work Activities Affecting the Safety of the Vehicle
Again, for the Motor Carrier Exemption to apply, the employee’s duties must affect the safety of the vehicle. For example, an employee who drives a large vehicle is engaged in duties affecting safety and may be exempt. However, an employee who spends his or her time un-loading material or goods from a large vehicle is not exempt, because their activities do not involve the safety of the truck. Conversely, one who loads material or goods into a large truck might or might not be exempt depending on whether they have discretion in placing and securing the material in the truck. Generally, those who are not employed by the trucking or transportation company, such as those employed to maintain or repair the vehicle, will not be exempt.