A federal court ruling that took place in Arkansas late last month could totally transform the way that truck drivers are paid.
On October 19, the US District Court in the Western District of Arkansas ruled against PAM Transport in a case related to minimum wage pay for commercial vehicle drivers.
The judge refused PAM Transport’s request to dismiss a 2016 class action suit involving approximately 3,000 truck drivers. The suit argues that PAM Transport violated federal labor laws and minimum wage requirements when they failed to pay their drivers for the total number hours worked.
By refusing to dismiss the lawsuit, the court has upheld the notion that truck drivers ought to be paid the federal minimum wage of $7.25 for sixteen hours per day — meaning all of the time spent in the truck except for eight hours of sleep. The court’s ruling indicates that time spent in the sleeper berth could count as work, even if that time is considered to be “off-duty.”
District Court Judge Timothy Brooks shared justification for his decision in his October 19 memorandum:
“There is no ambiguity here, then, as to whether an employer must count as hours worked the time that an employee spends riding in a commercial truck while neither sleeping nor eating: time thus spent “is working” and “any work” performed “while traveling must… be counted as hours worked.”
Further, the court found that Department of Transportation regulations capping a driver’s on-duty time at 14 hours has little impact on how truck drivers should be paid.
Justin Swidler, the lawyer representing the truck drivers in their suit against PAM Transport, says that the ruling could have huge ramifications for the way truck drivers are paid going forward. “The decision may have national implications,” he told Business Insider.
The judge’s decision doesn’t mean that the lawsuit is over but does mean that it will continue to be argued.