If your job is related to the operation and safety of a vehicle over 10,000 pounds that transports property or people over state lines, it’s likely that your employer is a motor carrier engaged in interstate commerce and the federal Motor Carrier Act (MCA) exempts you from overtime pay, as an employment lawyer relies on can explain. In a nutshell, the law doesn’t want employers overworking certain employees or incenting those employees to fatigue themselves for higher overtime pay rates if doing so would risk public safety.
Who Is Exempt from Overtime Pay Under the MCA?
The MCA not only exempts drivers of certain vehicles from overtime pay, but it also exempts anyone whose job affects the safety of such a vehicle. In addition to DOT-regulated drivers, this may include a driver’s helper, loader, or mechanic employed by a motor carrier subject to the MCA. The MCA also exempts employees who transport property that will ultimately be in interstate commerce, even if not at the hands of that employee (for example, a driver who never crosses state lines but who connects with an intrastate rail, air, water or land terminal where the transported goods will continue an interstate journey to a final destination). So, even if your job has never actually carried you across state lines, you may still be subject to the MCA overtime exemption if you do any work that affects the safety of the vehicle and your employer is at all involved in interstate commerce.
Is Anyone in the Transport Industry Allowed Overtime Pay?
Although the MCA has a broad scope of coverage, there are circumstances where it does not apply. If you are employed by a motor carrier, but the work you do has no impact on safety, the MCA exemption does not apply to you and you may be entitled to overtime pay if you work more than 40 hours per week. This generally includes employees such as office personnel, dispatchers, unloaders, and even loaders if the loader is not ultimately responsible for the safety of the load.
Are There Any Other Exceptions That Allow Overtime Pay?
Although the Supreme Court has recognized that employees whose safety-affecting duties are “trivial, casual, and insignificant” may not fall under the MCA exemption (i.e., they may be owed overtime pay), courts generally hold that drivers should seldom, if ever, fall within this exception, regardless of how infrequently they may drive, because they have such a high potential for impacting public safety. Finally, employees whose work affects the safety of a vehicle under 10,000 pounds may not fall within the MCA exemption (i.e., may be owed overtime pay), but the MCA exemption still applies (i.e., no overtime pay) if the vehicle is to transport more than 8 passengers (including driver) for compensation, is to transport more than 15 passengers (including driver) without compensation, or is to transport certain hazardous materials.