Court Ruling Could Require Driver Pay for Hours Spent Sleeping

October 22, 2018 by Cyndia Zwahlen

Trucking companies could owe employee truck drivers pay for every hour spent on the job, including sleeping breaks required by law, under a new court ruling.

The ruling by the U.S. District Court in Fayetteville, Ark., came in an ongoing wage lawsuit against P.A.M. Transport Inc. Issued Friday, it said federal labor laws, not safety rules, should be used to tally for how many hours of work an employee truck driver must be paid.

“The Department of Transportation regulations aim to make our roads safe, while the Department of Labor regulations aim to provide workers adequate compensation,” U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Brooks said in denying P.A.M.’s motion for dismissal of some of the lawsuit’s claims.

“This is big — this is a completely different approach, which says, ‘Look, anytime you are on the road is potentially compensable — every hour you are away from home you deserve minimum wage,’ ” said Steve Viscelli, a truck labor expert and author who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania.

P.A.M., based in Tontitown, Ark., and its attorneys did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday. The company owned and operated 1,351 trucks on average in the third quarter. It recently posted record quarterly profits of $9.2 million on higher quarterly revenue of $140.3 million.

“Their position is that when you are logged in to the sleeper berth, they don’t have to pay you because that means you are resting and if you are resting you can’t be working,” said Justin L. Swidler, the drivers’ attorney in the P.A.M. suit and a partner at Swartz Swidler in Cherry Hill, N.J.

“It ignores federal wage and hours jurisprudence, which holds that if you are permitted to sleep you can still be working,” he said.

Swidler said he raised the sleeper berth issue in a previous driver lawsuit against P.A.M., but it was not decided by the court because the case was settled.

Currently, the trucking industry uses federal Department of Transportation rules when counting how many of the hours a truck driver works must be paid. Specifically, it relies on the department’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rules, which don’t count time spent resting in a truck’s sleeper berth as on-duty time.

That practice was challenged as part of the December 2016 federal lawsuit brought by three truck drivers against P.A.M. The drivers alleged the company failed to pay minimum wage in a number of instances.

In early May, several thousand more drivers joined the suit when it was conditionally allowed to proceed as a class action lawsuit. A few weeks later, P.A.M. filed a motion to dismiss all of the wage claims in the suit that had to do with time spent in sleeper berths. The company argued that it is legally allowed to exclude those.

The court disagreed and denied the motion. “This Court believes those DOT regulations have little, if any, bearing on the matter at hand,” the judge wrote in Friday’s filing. “They are a different set of regulations from the DOL regulations under discussion … concerned with different policy aims.”

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17 Responses

  1. lonnie schott

    Drivers are on duty from time leave till get home its about time for fair compensation i figured that i made 1.50 hr if add all time i worked but companys and all involved did not and the bigest safety isue is paid by load or mile all will push limits and bad thengs happen

    Reply
    • Robert Dallis

      Hey there is any one home knock knock is anyone home dont be such a greedy nut because you had the ball in your court almost forever already at least pay the truckers $10 bucks hr when sleeping for God’s sake they are truckers are out and about away from there find ass wife and family for a very long time sleeping alone all by themselves. Get real you got offer better benefits paid $10 an hour pay for when you sleeping

      Reply
  2. David

    If u going to pay drivers to rest & sleeping in there truck for 10 hrs of rest. Then driver’s who gose home every day but then company tellsthem to come back to work after they have 10 hrs off , then they need to get paid too. Then all drivers will get paid 24 hrs a day both ways drivers need a rest period & not on duty because they should be sleeping & not getting paid to sleep

    Reply
    • Perry M

      Otr drivers are babysitting company trucks
      We are working 24 hours a day while on the road
      Otr drivers put in 50 plus hours a week babysitting company trucks !

      Reply
      • Daniel N.

        And that’s the good thing about it, you’re stuck in the company truck your whole time on the job, minus needing to refuel and get your Bill of Lading from the receiving company. You’re not home and enjoying yourself so as long as you’re on that truck, whether you’ve got a load or not, you should be getting paid. Baby-sitting is a good way to call it. I know. I was a company driver for PAM for half a year, from late 2015 to early 2016. Sat doing nothing for occasional periods of time. Was ridiculous. never took home more than $400 a week.

  3. Charles Hanna

    Regardless of HOS duty status the driver is still responsible for the truck trailer and customer cargo while they are Over The Road as assigned by their employer
    If the driver can be fired for failing to meet the responsibilities assigned to them while Over The Road
    Then the driver is due wages when the have successfully met their obligations to their employer

    Reply
  4. Joseph

    Sleeping at home beside your wife verses in the cab of your truck hundreds of miles away from your family are two very different scenarios. No I don’t believe a company should be required to pay there drivers when there home but when on the road in the company’s truck taking care of transporting the company’s customers product then yes they should pay for every minute there dealing with anything related to that period. It’s a double standard for truck drivers. If a employee working for a company was asked to stay an hour or two later to work and that they wouldn’t pay it for it there would be a serious issue and outcry, not so with truck drivers. When your sitting at a shipper/receiver getting loaded or unloaded you are not paid typically for the first 2 hours. I could go on and on about the differences between the law for employees verses truck drivers. And I haven’t even brought up overtime pay yet..

    Reply
    • Travis

      Yep just waiting for that court case to pop up and all the transport companies to really start screaming..

      Reply
  5. Mac gawdy

    When will people realize we’re nothing more than flesh and bone robots to those that have absolute power😤🤮🤯😡🤫

    Reply
  6. Steve

    Getting paid for sleeper berth time is not right. Truck drivers O. T.R . Should make a minimum of $200.00 per day for 9 hours worked. Truck drivers need to get overtime after 10 hours per day and double time after 13hours per day (22.50 times 2).

    Reply
  7. Shawn Avery

    You r all right when u r at work weather in the bunk or driving u r still at work.

    Reply
  8. D

    By GOD ITS ABOUT DAM TIME someone starts reconizing the crap were going through…My company refuses to pay when comes time for hometime… Yeap drop st louis go home springfield pick up after home in joplin but only pay from springfield to joplin DIRTY should be st louis to joplin… Little scams these dam trucking companies pull and guess what… I call wage hour and they said as long as the company meets min wage 7.25 hr nothing they can do HELL yeah

    Reply
  9. anthony buck

    What will happen going forward is that trucking companies will lower drivers mileage pay to make up for the sleeper pay. Drivers will feel as if their being paid for rest breaks but it’s all going to average out to be about the same. Trucking companies would rather close their doors than admit they’ve become multi millionaires off the blood sweat and labor of the common truck driver. Yea I am a 33 year veteran driver with over 5 million safe miles.

    Reply

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