Trucking companies may not need to pay their truck drivers for certain off-duty time, potentially including time spent sleeping in their sleeper berth units, after the US Department of Labor (USDOL) issued an opinion letter 7/22/2019 confirming that such time is generally not compensable.

  • The letter clears up confusion caused by conflicting court decisions that held that off-duty time may be limited to eight hours a day when a truck driver is on a trip and spending off-duty time in their sleeper berth.
  • The letters themselves are legally non-binding but do indicate how the agency will enforce such situations.
  • The letter was in response to a motor carrier asking the USDOL for guidance about paying sleeping truck drivers who are:
    • (a) not performing work,
    • (b) permitted to sleep, and
    • (c) not “on call” to perform any work.
    • In a typical week, the carrier said, a truck driver might be working (and compensated) around 55 hours per week, while in the sleeper berth about 50 hours.
  • The USDOL’s letter said that the truck drivers are “waiting to be engaged” to work during the time they are in the sleeper berths, which is not compensable under federal wage and hour law. As long as they are completely relieved from duty for periods that enable them to use the time effectively for their own purposes, they are not “engaged to wait” and therefore not entitled to pay.
  • The exceptions are:
    • Truck drivers would be considered to be “engaged to wait” and due to be paid if their time in the sleeper berth belonged to and was controlled by the employer. For example, if the truck driver is required to wait at a job site for goods to be loaded into the truck, the truck driver would need to be paid for that time.
    • If the truck driver is unable to use the time in the sleeper berth for his/her own purposes, the truck driver would still need to be paid for that time. For example, if truck drivers are required to remain on call, study job-related materials, do paperwork, or perform similar activities while in their sleeper berths they would be entitled to be paid.
  • Please note that this interpretation may change again at either the DOL or because of court opinions.

Conclusion

This opinion letter is an opportunity to review your pay policies. Please give us a call at B&D if we can be of assistance in that review. 

The opinion is available at: https://www.dol.gov/whd/opinion/FLSA/2019/2019_07_22_10_FLSA.pdf

The American Trucking Association’s statement is available at:

https://www.trucking.org/article/ATA-Praises-DOL-Opinion-Letter-on-Sleeper-Berth-Time