Overtime Ruling Turns on Weight of Drivers' Vehicles

Author: Michael Cardman, XpertHR Legal Editor

November 21, 2017

Because they spent some of their time driving small vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less each workweek, delivery drivers for a Baltimore-based bakery chain were owed overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a federal appellate court has ruled.

"[A]n employee need only work on smaller vehicles 'in part' to qualify for overtime compensation, thereby placing drivers of mixed fleets within the FLSA's requirements," the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Schilling v. Schmidt Baking Co.

Under what is known as the motor carrier exemption, certain truck drivers, driver's helpers, loaders, mechanics and other workers whose duties affect the safe operation of motor vehicles are exempt from the overtime requirements of the FLSA. However, a 2008 amendment makes an exception for employees who work in whole or in part on motor vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less.

The plaintiffs in the Schilling case used their personal vehicles, all of which weighed under 10,000 pounds, for about 70% to 90% of the deliveries they made. They used box trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds for the rest of the deliveries.

Their employer, the Schmidt Baking Company, had argued that the drivers were eligible for the motor carrier exemption because they worked on a "mixed fleet" consisting of vehicles weighing both more and less than 10,000 pounds.

But the 4th Circuit rejected this argument. By spending even part of their workweek on vehicles weighing less than 10,000 pounds, the drivers were covered under the 2008 exception, the court held.

The 4th Circuit - covering employers in Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia - joined the neighboring 3rd Circuit - covering employers in Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania - in this interpretation.

However, both appellate courts declined to establish a strict definition of the phrase in part. Whatever the term means, the driver in the 3rd Circuit case, McMasters v. Eastern Armored Services, Inc., "certainly satisfied" that standard by spending 49% of her work days driving vehicles weighing less than 10,000 pounds.