One of the common exemptions to the overtime requirement of the Fair Labor Standards Act is the “Motor Carrier Exemption.” This exemption applies to employees who: 1) work for a motor carrier or motor private carrier, 2) are drivers, driver’s helpers, loaders, or mechanics whose duties affect the safety of operation of motor vehicles in transportation on public highways in interstate or foreign commerce; and 3) are not covered by what is known as “the small vehicle exception.” Each of these three items is discussed in more depth below.
- Employed by a Motor Carrier or Motor Private Carrier
A motor carrier is defined by statute as “a person providing motor vehicle transportation for compensation,” and a motor private carrier includes persons transporting property by motor vehicle if the person is the owner, lessee, or bailee of the property being transported, and the property is transported for sale, lease, rent, or bailment, or to further a commercial enterprise. These definitions are rather broad and likely include most employers who transport any kids of goods.
- Employee Duties
To be exempt from overtime, a motor carrier or motor private carrier must employ a driver, driver’s helper, loader, or mechanic whose duties affect the safety of operation of motor vehicles in transportation on public highways in interstate of foreign commerce.
Whether an employee is a driver, driver’s helper, loader, or mechanic is a fairly straightforward question. Does the employee perform duties as a driver, driver’s helper, loader, or mechanic?
A driver affects the safety of the operation of a motor vehicle in interstate or foreign commerce by not only driving across state lines but also by transporting items that will, before reaching their final destination, cross state lines. A driver’s helper is a person required to ride in a vehicle that so affects interstate commerce.
A loader engages in work directly affecting safety of operation of vehicles in interstate commerce when he or she has responsibility for a vehicle being loaded so that the items are transported safely in interstate commerce, as described above. And a mechanic engages in safety work affecting interstate commerce when he works on vehicles traveling in interstate commerce, as explained above.
- Small Vehicle Exception
Effective June 6, 2008, the Motor Carrier Exemption ceased to apply to a driver, driver’s helper, loader, or mechanic whose work affects the safe, interstate operation of certain motor vehicles that weigh 10,000 pounds or less. An exception to this “small vehicle exception” is when the vehicle is used for compensation and designed or used to transport more than 8 passengers or, if not used for compensation, the vehicle is designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers. Another exception to this exception is when the vehicle is used to transport hazardous material and requires placarding under federal regulations.
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