FLSA: Protecting Passengers and Drivers

Issue

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) precludes mandatory overtime pay for any employee with respect to whom the U.S Secretary of Transportation has power to establish qualifications and maximum hours of service (HOS)[1]. Our coalition believes this rule was established as a way to keep the traveling public safe by preventing violations of the driver hours of service regulations in order to seek overtime compensation. While this protection has been in place for more than 50 years, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and their allies in Congress are seeking to remove motorcoach drivers from this exemption.

Background

The ATU and AFL-CIO have endeavored to use several accidents as pretext for “FLSA reform”. The Union’s proposal makes a factually unsupported scurrilous connection between these accidents and driver fatigue related to poor pay. ATU disregards the fact that almost all of these accidents were caused by unsafe and illegal operators that routinely flouted federal safety regulations. In fact one accident cited by ATU in their proposal was caused by a bus operator with over 200 safety violations.

In response to some of the accidents the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) authored a special report on curbside motorcoach safety[2], which found, as had prior reports written by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), that motorcoach travel remains one of the safest forms of transportation in the United States[3] and the safest form of surface transportation. The NTSB and DOT have analyzed recent bus accidents, and called for additional bus inspectors and inspections and urged state authorities to remain vigilant in shutting down illegal bus operators[4].

The NTSB and DOT have recognized driver fitness, driver management, unsafe driver conduct, and driver fatigue as all potential contributing factors to unsafe bus operations. However, the reports make no reference to FLSA guidelines as a factor leading to fatigue among drivers. To date there has been no research showing a link between driver fatigue and FLSA rules.

ABA Position

We believe the data shows that it is the absence of a national, consistent, inspection and enforcement regime that has enabled unsafe and illegal bus operators to grow. AFL-CIO and ATU proposed changes to the FLSA will have no positive impact on passenger or driver safety, and is simply an effort to circumvent the collective bargaining process. Furthermore, ABA believes that the proposal would actually force operators to reduce the number of full time drivers, replacing them with more part time shifts. The resulting change would likely decrease driver pay, increase HOS violations and force many drivers to seek additional employment. Our coalition rejects proposed changes to the FLSA based on the harm to passenger safety, increases in motorcoach operating costs and the possible collapse of the motorcoach driver pool.


[1] The provisions of section 207 of this title shall not apply with respect to— Section 213 (b)(1) “any employee with respect to whom the Secretary of Transportation has power to establish qualifications and maximum hours of service pursuant to the provisions of section 31502 of Title 49;”

[2] Report on Curbside Motorcoach Safety

[3] Testimony of the Honorable Deborah A.P. Hersman Chairman National Transportation Safety Board; before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Subcommittee on Surface Transportation; March 30, 2011

[4] Motorcoach Safety Action Plan