Boxer calls on Senate to kill 'mean-spirited' driver pay provision

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | 2/25/2016

Calling legislation targeting truck driver pay a “dangerous special interest” and “mean-spirited” provision, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., called on fellow senators to kill language that would limit non-driving pay for truck drivers.

The fight over whether states can mandate drivers be paid for non-driving time spilled over into an aviation funding bill earlier this month, when a U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee opted to include language that would prohibit states from mandating non-driving pay.

Similar to a multiyear highway bill, Congress passes multiyear aviation bills that set funding levels and regulatory directives for the aviation industry. For now, that bill in the House of Representatives is the Aviation Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization Act, HR4441. Not your conventional battleground for trucking related issues.

“You may wonder why a truck driver provision is in an aviation bill? The answer is easy.  We killed it in the highway bill, and the Republican House will not give up on their mean-spirited provision,” Boxer said in prepared remarks for her press conference.

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.

“I am here today to shine a spotlight on this provision, which will block states that wish to protect their truck drivers’ pay when they take these breaks or even when they load or unload their trucks,” Boxer told the media at her press conference.

If the bill is passed with Section 611 intact, motor carriers might 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.

“This terrible anti-safety, anti-worker provision is a poison pill and has no place in the FAA bill. It has no place in any bill, which is why we killed it in the highway bill,” Boxer said.

A number of groups oppose the legislation, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. The Association previous issued a Call To Action to its membership to oppose Section 611.

The senator from California upped the ante against the language, personally urging Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., and Ranking Member Bill Nelson, D-Fla., to block the language. She also called on her colleagues in the Senate to consider writing their own letters of opposition to the language.

Currently the House version of the bill has been through its markup at the subcommittee level and passed, with Section 611 included.

What remains to be seen is whether the Senate will begin crafting its own long-term aviation bill or wait on the AIRR Act to pass out of the House and then go to work on it in the Senate.

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