Motor Carrier Act Exemption for Drivers Driving Interstate

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has recently ruled that drivers who “rarely or never crossed state lines” were nevertheless covered by the motor carrier exemption to the Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) because they worked in safety-affecting jobs and reasonably could have been expected to drive interstate routes. Resch v. Krapf’s Coaches, Inc., Case No. 15-0811 (3rd Cir. May 12, 2015).

The Motor Carrier Act (MCA) exemption removes from the FLSA’s overtime protections “any employee with respect to whom the Secretary of Transportation has [the] power to establish qualifications and maximum hours of service pursuant to the provisions of section 31502” of the MCA. 29 U.S.C. §213(b)(1). This section 31502(a)(1) applies to interstate transportation. To fall under the ambit of the Secretary of Transportation, such employee’s transportation must cross state lines or, within a single state, be a continuation of the interstate “journey of goods.” To sum up, this exemption seems to be applicable to employees/drivers of large vehicles.

As for the Supreme Court’s decision discussed in Resch, it was found that the employees were exempt under the provisions of 29 U.S.C.S. § 213 of the act and that the overtime requirements of the act under 29 U.S.C.S. § 207 did not apply.[1]

The Supreme Court held that the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) had jurisdiction to regulate all forty-three drivers—even those who never drove interstate—and that none of the drivers were entitled to overtime under the FLSA. The Supreme Court had reasoned that the case would be the same “if each [of the employer’s] driver[s] drove 4% of his driving time each day in interstate commerce,” as there would be “the same essential need for the [ICC’s] establishment of reasonable requirements with respect to qualifications and maximum hours of service of employees.” Id.

The Third Circuit also observed that ICC had jurisdiction “even if the driver has not personally driven in interstate commerce if, because of company policy and activity, the driver could reasonably be expected to do interstate driving[2].”

Finally, the Resch court affirmed the district court’s decision that there was no genuine dispute of material fact regarding whether plaintiffs reasonably could have expected to drive interstate. Unrefuted evidence reflected employer’s adherence to federal regulations regarding the drivers. The MCA exemption applied as defendant was under the DOT jurisdiction and plaintiffs were members of a class of employees who could reasonably be expected to drive interstate routes as part of their duties.

In order to apply the exemption, employers should be aware that the precise amount of time devoted to interstate transport may not be the sole factor determining the applicability of the exemption. It is also important that such employee performs work that affects the safety of transportation operations that reasonably can be expected to cross state lines.

[1] See Morris v. McComb, 332 U.S. 422 (1947)

[2] (citing Morris, 332 U.S. 422)

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