Proposed highway bill includes driver compensation

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | 4/2/2015

The Obama administration’s proposed highway bill, called Grow America, has a provision that would mandate driver pay for on-duty not-driving time.

Most people look at highway bills and think road funding. And while that certainly is true, the highway bills typically include regulatory to-do lists of sorts for various agencies. That holds true with the recently unveiled administration’s proposed highway bill.

Drivers will be particularly interested in the fact that the administration takes aim at one of the biggest problems that drivers face when it comes to making a decent living: uncompensated on-duty time.

The proposed bill seeks to require employers to trace the on-duty not-driving time of an employee whose base compensation is calculated in a manner other than an hourly wage and who is required to keep a record of duty status under the hours-of-service regulation.

The proposal requires that the driver be separately compensated for any on-duty, not-driving time at an hourly rate that is at least compliant with the federal minimum wage.

The provision would not include employee drivers whose compensation is governed by collective bargaining agreements or negotiated by National Labor Relations Board bona fide employee representatives.

Broadening enforcement
The administration has also identified another subset of the industry that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration does not have jurisdiction over – contractors who exercise control over motor carrier operations. The proposed highway bill would expand FMCSA’s authority over those contractors.

The proposed bill is targeting contractors who exercise direct operation control – such as setting routes, schedules, dispatching, etc. – over commercial motor vehicles. Contractors who provide drivers and who are responsible for ensuring the drivers meet the federal qualifications to operate a truck are included as well. Finally, contractors who provide equipment, other than leased or lease-purchased equipment, to a motor carrier are also subject to the proposal.

The proposed language would require the contractors to register with FMCSA. The administration is looking to have the contractors operate like the motor carriers they are supplementing through record keeping and being subject to safety audits. The contractors could be penalized and enforced on – just as motor carriers and individual drivers can be by FMCSA right now – including penalties and out-of-service orders.

Repeal of self-insurance
Mega motor carriers who currently self-insure rather than purchase insurance policies from an insurance company would no longer be allowed to do so if Grow America is signed into law in its proposed form.

The administration’s proposal on self-insurance is short and sweet. It seeks to repeal the ability of motor carriers to self-insure, including the ones who were granted authority to self-insure before 1996.

Violations in personal vehicles
The bill proposes to loop in violations committed by both CDL and non-CDL holders in their personal vehicles.

Those violations can be used to prohibit a non-CDL holder from obtaining a CDL.

For CDL holders and non-CDL holders it widens the consequences of committing the violation of driving on a revoked, suspended or canceled driver’s license. It doesn’t matter if it’s your personal vehicle or a truck; the first offense is a one-year suspension from driving a commercial motor vehicle and the second offense is a lifetime ban.

New entrant audit requirement loosened
Currently FMCSA is required to conduct audits on all new entrant motor carriers. The proposed bill seeks to make some tweaks to that requirement, loosening the requirement on the agency to actually conduct the audit.

A simple word change from the agency “shall” to the agency “may” appears to build in discretion for the agency on conducting new entrant safety audits.

Other high points
The proposed highway bill also contains language to toughen up on chameleon motor carriers who close up shop to avoid enforcement action from FMCSA and motor carriers that pose an “imminent hazard” on the roads.

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