Washington truckers win overtime case

| 11/30/2007

Truckers who are based in the state of Washington have won a major court victory on overtime pay.

The Columbian newspaper reported that a state Supreme Court ruling was upheld on Monday, Nov. 26, when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal in the case.

The state court ruled earlier that truckers who log more than 40 hours a week are entitled to overtime pay. The decision opens the possibility that other drivers could file similar suits and force trucking companies to re-examine driver compensation.

The court awarded nearly $10,000 in unpaid overtime to trucker Larie Bostain of Vancouver, who had filed suit against his former employer, Food Express Inc. of Arcadia, CA.

“I would speculate that there will be a number of Washington-based carriers right now saying ‘Oh (insert your own four-letter word here),’ ” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer.

Despite the reality that many companies may not be too thrilled at this point, Spencer speculated that this court decision will likely have a silver lining in terms of its overall impact on trucking.

“For the more than two and a half decades that we’ve been involved in deregulation we keep seeing a significant degradation placed on the value of a driver’s time,” Spencer said. “Their time has always had a tremendous value, but because it has not been recognized as such by trucking companies, shippers and receivers, the work week for the driver has constantly been extended.”

Spencer said the hours-of-service regulations are intended to be the maximum permissible hours worked. But what has happened is that those limits have evolved to be the industry norm.

“The result is that a driver’s time ceases to have value, and the occupation becomes one that many people see as not a valuable occupation,” Spencer said. “That’s why we have this tremendous driver turnover and retention problem.”

Spencer pointed to ongoing issues with drivers’ abilities to comply with HOS regs and enforcement across the board.

“Trucking has evolved into likely the most inefficient industry in America in terms of utilization of human driver resources. ... This decision (in Washington) might encourage more efficient utilization of drivers’ time,” Spencer said.

“It will be a win-win for everyone – drivers and the companies they work for.”

By Land Line staff