Aviation bill new battleground over truck driver pay

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | Thursday, February 04, 2016

An aviation bill in the U.S. House of Representatives includes key language that could have a far-reaching effect on truck driver pay.

The Aviation Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization Act, HR4441, is a bill that, obviously, largely deals with authorization and reform of aviation programs. Nestled in the legislative language is a provision pushed by large motor carriers.

That provision could have a far-reaching effect on the way truck drivers are compensated, according to the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

Section 611 was inserted in HR4441, dubbed the AIRR Act for short, in response to a U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit decision that upheld meal and rest break pay for employee drivers in California.

“Driver pay and situations where a driver’s time is taken advantage of without compensation most certainly should be addressed,” OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said. “While the section of the aviation bill is intended as a response to the California meal and rest break law, its implications go well beyond that state. Its ultimate impact on all states is simply not known.”

If the bill is passed with Section 611 intact, motor carriers could only have to pay drivers on a piecework or per-mile basis. Gone could be any chance at pay for detention time, safety inspections, paperwork, or any other work-related tasks that do not involve racking up miles. It could also gut the ability of states to individually address these sorts of issues in the future, according to OOIDA.

“It would be irresponsible of Congress to enact narrowly targeted legislation without fully comprehending the impact it will have on drivers nationwide,” Spencer said.

The language is similar to an amendment that Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., attempted to get included in the highway bill, Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act or FAST Act. OOIDA successfully fought to prevent the amendment’s inclusion into the final bill signed into law in December 2015.

The lack of congressional discussion on the issue provides reason for pause as well, according to Spencer.

“This is not a provision that proponents are saying exactly how it would play out, what problem it fixes. It’s not been subject to any hearing, any discussion,” Spencer said. “You can count on OOIDA opposing any legislation that has the potential to limit the amount or manner in which truck drivers are compensated.”

OOIDA issued a Call to Action mobilizing members as well as their friends and families to call lawmakers in the U.S. House to oppose Section 611.

Spencer said time is short to let lawmakers know that truck drivers are opposed to not being compensated for work performed – all work performed.

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