Letter to the Congress Requesting SAFETEA-LU Overtime Correction
December 6, 2006
Sent to House and Senate leadership
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world's largest business federation representing more than three million companies and organizations of every size, sector and region, has many members that are being affected by an inadvertent, yet significant, change made in the highway program reauthorization bill enacted last year, SAFETEA-LU. This change has resulted in drivers of trucks weighing 10,000 pounds or less being subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act provisions on overtime. The U.S. Chamber urges you to include language restoring the FLSA exemption for these drivers to any bill likely to be enacted during this short lame duck session.
SAFETEA-LU included a provision which eliminated the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) authority to regulate commercial vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less. This provision was intended as a conforming, technical change to bring DOT's authority in line with the fact that they generally declined to exercise their authority to regulate these vehicles. Unfortunately, by doing so, the language also made these vehicles subject to the wage and hour provisions of the FLSA. Many of these drivers are compensated based on a per job basis, or the completion of their routes, making calculations of overtime all but impossible. This means that businesses of all sizes are now exposed to lawsuits for potentially millions of dollars in overtime pay dating from August 15, 2005, when SAFETEA-LU was signed into law.
A second consequence of this language is to compromise DOT's safety mission. In particular, DOT no longer has the authority to regulate the safety of certain commercial vehicles. Consequently, DOT now supports restoring the language to the pre-highway bill status quo so that it can resume pursuing its mission ensuring vehicle safety on the highways.
Language that would achieve this goal can be found at Section 132 of the Senate's version of the Transportation, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development Judiciary, District of Columbia and Independent Agencies (TTHUD) Appropriations bill, H.R. 5576. The U.S. Chamber asks that this language be inserted in the legislative vehicle most likely to be enacted.
R. Bruce Josten