Motor carrier employees are responsible for transporting goods and people all over the country. Many of these workers spend long hours on the road away from their homes and families. If a worker spends more than 40 hours per workweek on the road, s/he may be entitled to overtime pay. However, not all workers are entitled to overtime, and these laws can be confusing. This can lead some employers to accidentally or purposefully misclassify employees.

If you believe your employer owes you overtime pay, contact Gibbons Law Group, PLLC to determine the validity of your case.

Who is entitled to overtime pay?

Under the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA), certain employees can receive overtime pay for extra hours worked. Overtime pay is equivalent to one-and-a-half times an employee’s hourly wage for all hours worked beyond the standard 40 hours a week.

However, several classes of employees fall under an exemption and do not qualify for overtime. Some of these classes include:

Related: Understanding Overtime Pay Law in North Carolina For Blue-Collar Employees

Who does the Motor Carrier Act exemption cover?

Under Section 13(b)(1) of the FLSA, a number of motor carrier employees are exempt from overtime pay. The exemption covers employees who are:

Employed by a Motor Carrier or Motor Private Carrier

To be exempt, the employee must be under employment with a motor carrier or motor private carrier.

Under 49 U.S.C. § 13102, a motor carrier provides motor vehicle transportation in exchange for compensation.

The U.S.C. defines motor private carriers as those who transport property by motor vehicle, if the carrier is an owner, lessee, or bailee of the transported property and is transporting the property for:

  • Sale
  • Rent
  • Lease
  • Bailment
  • The furthering of a commercial enterprise

Engaged in Duties Affecting the Safety of Transportation on Highways in Interstate Commerce

Employees who work on motor vehicles that transport people or property in interstate commerce may qualify as exempt. Four types of employees can be exempt under the FLSA’s Motor Carrier Act exemption including:

  • Drivers
  • Loaders
  • Mechanics
  • Driver’s helpers


To be exempt, these employees must conduct specific duties as specified by the FLSA. These employees must:

  • Regularly or occasionally perform “safety-affecting activities on a motor vehicle used in transportation on public highways in interstate or foreign commerce.”
  • Perform these duties as one of the four types of employees listed above

Employees who meet these criteria will be exempt no matter the proportion of the safety-related duties performed. This means that motor carrier employees can be exempt even if their safety affecting activities are only a small percentage of their job. However, the exception to this is when the safety-related duties are so trivial that they do not have a significant direct impact on the safety of vehicle operation.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) will consider four months from the date the employees could have reasonably been expected to make an interstate journey, or made such a journey, to determine whether the employee fulfilled the duties requirement.

Interstate Commerce

To be exempt, employees’ transportation duties must be within interstate or foreign commerce. Interstate commerce involves transportation across state or international lines. Employees who have handled trips that “connect with intrastate terminals via rail, water, air, or land to continue an interstate journey of goods that have not made a final stop” are also exempt.

If the employee has not made an interstate trip, s/he may still qualify as exempt if s/he meets the following criteria:

  • The employer is involved in interstate commerce.
  • The employee could have reasonably expected to be involved in an interstate journey or have safety-affecting duties related to the motor vehicle during his/her regular course of employment.

Not Covered by the Small Vehicle Exception

Employees might not be exempt if they fall under the small vehicle exception. Under this exception, employees who operate or service vehicles weighing less than 10,000 pounds may be able to receive overtime from their employers. For this exception to apply, the vehicle must also be:

  • Designed or used to transport over eight people for compensation;
  • Designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers not for compensation; or
  • Used to transport hazardous materials

Related: What Are The Meal And Rest Break Requirements For North Carolina Employees?

Misclassified Employees

Drivers, driver’s helpers, “proper” loaders, and mechanics involved with the safety of transportation vehicles in interstate or foreign commerce are the only employees that can be exempt from the FLSA’s overtime regulations under the motor carrier exemption.

In many cases, employers misclassify employees that are not engaged in safety-affecting activities as exempt. These misclassified employees typically include:

  • Dispatchers
  • Office personnel
  • Employees that unload vehicles
  • Employees involved in the loading of vehicles but are not responsible for the proper loading the vehicle

While this misclassification might be the result of a simple misunderstanding, you might still have a valid case for compensation.

Phil Gibbons, Charlotte, NC employee rights lawyer, can help motor carrier employees recover unpaid overtime.

The Motor Carrier Act exemption was intended to help workers in positions that require long shifts and do not generally allow for employees to stop working after 40 hours.

If you are a non-exempt employee of a motor carrier, you should receive overtime pay for the extra hours you spend driving or servicing your vehicle. If you are a motor carrier employee who has not been properly paid, contact Phil Gibbons at Gibbons Law Group, PLLC for help with your employment law case. Our overtime misclassification attorney will determine whether you are exempt and help you recover the overtime pay you are entitled to, plus possible liquidated damages, court costs, and other expenses.