Truck Driver Wage Theft: Sleeper Birth Time Beyond 8 hours is Compensable under the FLSA
Some trucking companies use a “team based” driver model, using two drivers who take turns driving, allowing the company to keep their trucks in near continuous operation for multiple days while complying with DOT regulations limited driver hours. A federal court recently ruled that trucking companies must pay team drivers for time spent in sleeper births in excess of 8 hours.
Under the DOT regulations, drivers may be “on duty” for 14 hours at a time. Within the 14 hour period, a driver can only driver for 11 hours, the remaining three hours must be spent taking care of non driving responsibilities, like loading or unloading. After fourteen hours of on duty time, a driver must take 10 consecutive hours of “off duty” time, during which a driver cannot driver, load, or unload the vehicle.
These DOT regulations cannot limit compensation under the FLSA. In once recent case, CRST Expedited was found to have committed wage theft by not paying for sleeper birth time beyond 8 hours. Because a driver really cannot do anything else while in the sleeper birth, the First Circuit recently found that sleeper birth time over 8 hours per day should be compensated.
To determine whether or not an employee’s time is compensable, courts apply the “predominant benefit” test. When time is spent predominantly for the employer’s benefit, it must be compensated. Staying in very small confined (two feet by two feet) sleeper birth in a truck does not benefit the driver; it benefits the trucking company, and without the sleeper birth time, the trucking company’s businesses model would not work. So, sleeper birth time is primarily for the employer’s benefit. “