The purpose of the bill is to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide that over-the-road bus drivers are covered under the maximum hours requirements.
The bill would add an amendment to the FLSA within Section 13(b)(1), by inserting the words: “except a driver of an over-the-road bus.”
At first glance, the Driver Fatigue Prevention Act sounds like a positive move toward preventing truck driver fatigue. However, one must remember that this is government working at its finest. The newly introduced bill, slipped in during the holiday season, has nothing to do with driver fatigue. Its purpose lies soley within the provisions concerning overtime pay.
Section 13(b)(1) of the FLSA provides an overtime exemption for employees who are within the authority of the Secretary of Transportation to establish qualifications and maximum hours of service pursuant to Section 204 of the Motor Carrier Act of 1935. Truck drivers, motor carriers and over-the-road bus drivers fall under this exemption, thus the reason professional truckers and bus drivers are not provided with overtime pay as are most employees.
Bill S.1977 would remove these bus drivers from the exemption, allowing them to be paid for overtime hours. As over-the-road bus drivers complained about the long work hours, the bill would pave the way for these drivers to receive pay for anything over the regular 40 hour workweek. Truck drivers, however, would remain under the standards of Section 13(b)(1) of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
This is the perfect example that the goal to establish further safety measures within the transportation industry, really has nothing to do with safety. Which “cargo” is more important: a 53 foot van trailer loaded with paper towels or a 45 foot Greyhound bus with 55 people onboard?
These bus drivers face the same problem as truck drivers which is running hard and working well over 40 hours per week, all in order to earn a decent living. Professional drivers do not work 70 hours per week because they want to, but because it is the only way to earn a living wage and for many, seventy hours in a week can still fall short of a decent paycheck.
Lawrence J. Hanley, international president of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), stated:
“Hundreds of intercity bus companies get away with paying their bus drivers criminally low wages, forcing drivers to work 100 hours a week or more, often balancing two or three jobs, just to make a living. The unsuspecting customers get on these buses and disaster can strike. This bill extending intercity bus drivers the same overtime protections that have covered 85 percent of American workers for decades is not only the right thing to do; it’s the safe thing to do for our riders.”
Could not the same be said for professional truck drivers? Low wages, forcing drivers to work over the HOS and truck drivers should be extended the same overtime protection because it is the safe thing to do for truck drivers?
The U. S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division states that drivers can receive overtime pay under the “Safety Affecting Activities” if:
- The employer is shown to have an involvement in interstate commerce, and
- The employee could, in the regular course of employment, reasonably have been expected to make an interstate journey or could have worked on the motor vehicle in such a way as to be safety-affecting.
I write about these discrepancies between the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Motor Carrier Exemption and the authority of the Secretary of Transportation in a previous post: Overtime pay for truck drivers.
The FMCSA continues to try to fix a safety problem by adding regulations to an already, over-regulated industry, while ignoring the true problem. The entire industry is set-up for a non-safety standard. Professional drivers, whether they are bus drivers or OTR truckers, accept the pay-per-mile basis; they accept the lifestyle and responsibilities that come with long-haul driving.
However, as long as motor carriers are allowed to push their drivers beyond the hours of service rule; as long as shippers and receivers are allowed to force drivers to sit for hours on end at the docks; as long as there is no true CDL training standards set for the industry; and most importantly, as long as drivers are forced to work 70 hour workweeks without receiving overtime pay for any time over forty hours . . . drivers will continue to run as hard and long as possible in order to earn as much of a paycheck as possible to pay their bills and support their families.
You can let them know what you think about Bill S.1977, by sharing your comment on the WashingtonWatch website. If over-the-road bus drivers can be considered for exemption from the overtime provision, then over-the-road truck drivers should be included as well.
© 2011, Allen Smith. All rights reserved.