The Overtime Exemption For Certain Motor Carrier Employees

A few entire classes of employees are not covered by the overtime provisions of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. For various policy reasons, the federal government has decided that employers don't have to worry about paying overtime to certain types of employees. Such uncovered employees are thus not entitled to overtime regardless of whether they're paid by the hour or how many hours they work.  

One example of such employees are certain workers for employers that are governed by the federal Motor Carrier Act of 1935. The Motor Carrier Act overtime exemption applies to people employed by a motor carrier or motor private carrier who serve as drivers, driver’s helpers, loaders, or mechanics and whose duties affect the safety of operation of motor vehicles in transportation on public highways in interstate or foreign commerce.  There's also a minimum weight (10,000 pounds) for such motor vehicles. Employees who work with vehicles weighing less than 10,000 pounds are still eligible for overtime.

To come within the Motor Carrier Act exemption, employees' duties must include the performance, either regularly or occasionally, of activities that impact the safety of a motor vehicle that is used in transportation on public highways in interstate or foreign commerce. Only drivers, driver’s helpers, loaders, or mechanics can possibly fall within the Motor Carrier Act exemption. Those categories of employees generally have the requisite duties to be covered by the exemption, even if the employee doesn't perform many activities that affect safety. There's an exception to that though -- When an employee's daily activities have no substantial direct effect on safety, or when the employee's safety activities are trivial, casual, and insignificant, the employee may be outside the Motor Carrier Exemption's scope.

As the Motor Carrier Act exemption's general definition indicates, the employee's duties must concern transportation in interstate or international commerce. One possibility to meet that requirement is transportation across state or international borders. Interstate or international commerce also includes connections with an in-state terminal (rail, air, water, or land) that is part of an interstate or international shipment of goods that are merely passing through the area.

The Motor Vehicle Act exemption has its limits. It's inapplicable to employees whose duties to not affect vehicle safety. That includes employees such as dispatchers, office personnel, workers who unload vehicles, or those who help load a vehicle but are not responsible for the safe loading of the vehicle. Only drivers, drivers’ helpers, loaders who are responsible for proper loading, and mechanics working directly on motor vehicles that are to be used in transportation of passengers or property in interstate commerce can be exempt from the overtime provisions of the FLSA under the Motor Carrier Act exemption.

Harley Erbe