Time is money in the trucking business. Unfortunately, the only time a driver may get paid for is the time spent on the road. When drivers are stuck in shipping yards, waiting for shippers or tarping their loads, they are not earning a cent. And that doesn’t sit well with most of them. However, there is a real possibility that might change.
A new highway-funding bill introduced by the federal government this past spring includes a provision that could result in transport companies having to pay drivers for time spent detained by carriers or receivers. Though the law does not specifically detail how payments will be applied, it gives the Department of Transportation a fair amount of latitude. If the highway bill passes with the language attached, we could see drivers being paid for tarping their loads.
Tarping Takes Time
Even though tarped loads typically pay better, there are drivers who avoid them because they take longer to secure. Since time is money, if a driver spends an hour securing an especially bulky load, that’s one hour not spent driving. Let us not forget the other end where the driver must spend time taking the tarp off, folding it, and storing it.
The government hopes to see that change by requiring companies to pay their drivers at a rate equal to the federal minimum wage for any time spent working that does not involve driving. The thought is that the requirement would address three problems:
- Exceeding Time Limits – Professional drivers are required by law to limit the amount of driving they do on any single day. However, when time is lost at the shipping yard, drivers are tempted to exceed those limits in order to avoid losses. Paying them for time spent detained at shipping yards will hopefully reduce the temptation to exceed limits.
- Proper Tarping – The loss of time associated with applying and securing truck tarps can sometimes lead drivers to be rushed. Consequent errors may lead to falls, back injuries and other avoidable problems . Paying for tarping time is one way to address this.
- Industry Competition – The government hopes that the new legislation will make the driving industry more competitive in the labor market, more attractive for people just starting their careers. Let us face it; the idea of not being paid for down time is not attractive to people trying to decide what career path to embark on. More legislation means more burden but setting across the board uniform rules by which all companies have to play is one way to solve the acute driver shortage being faced by the industry.
This all sounds good if you are a professional driver. Nevertheless, there are a couple of flies in the ointment, so to speak. The first is that the regulations would only apply to transport companies. That means fleet drivers will be paid for their time, owner operators will not. That sort of inequity does not sit well with the legions of independent drivers across the country.
The second problem is that it will undoubtedly add to the cost of doing business for trucking companies. Moreover, since that money has to come from somewhere, the higher costs will be passed on to customers by way of higher prices.
No one yet knows what the fate of the highway bill is going to be. In all likelihood, it will need to be modified in order to satisfy both houses of Congress. We will have to wait and see what happens, but perhaps we’ll start seeing drivers paid for tarping their loads by some time next year.