Overtime Pay for Bus Drivers

Bus drivers often do not receive the overtime pay they deserve if they work more than 40 hours a week. Why? Some employers think that bus drivers are not entitled to overtime, and this is sometimes true under federal law. However, some states, like Massachusetts and several others, have laws that grant overtime rights to bus drivers. The legal basis for this is the following:

Many bus drivers are not entitled to overtime pay under federal law due to the Motor Carrier Act (“MCA”) exemption found in 29 U.S.C. § 213(b)(1). The MCA states that overtime pay is not required for “any employee with respect to whom the Secretary of Transportation has power to establish qualifications and maximum hours of service….”  According to another section of federal law, the Secretary has these powers “over transportation by motor carrier … to the extent that passengers, property, or both, are transported by motor carrier between a place in … a State and a place in another State.” So, in other words, the federal MCA applies to drivers who drive between states. Sometimes passenger drivers who only drive within one state can be swept up into the federal MCA exemption, but those circumstances are more common for drivers of cargo. For bus drivers (and other passenger drivers) who drive only within one state, the federal MCA almost always doesn’t apply. These drivers should get overtime under federal law no matter what state they live in and no matter where they drive.

However, the point of this article is slightly different. Whether or not you are entitled to overtime under the federal MCA, you are entitled to overtime under Massachusetts law because the state version of the MCA only applies to drivers of trucks–and buses, limos, vans, taxis, etc. are not trucks. The Massachusetts motor carrier exemption states that it applies to “a driver or helper on a truck with respect to whom the Interstate Commerce Commission has power to establish qualifications …” G.L. c. 151 § 1A(8). (The federal MCA is not limited just to trucks.)

This was explained recently by the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts in O’Brien v. Lifestyle Transp., Inc., 956 F.Supp.2d 300 (2013). In that case, the court followed an opinion letter by the Division of Occupational Safety which stood for the relatively straightforward proposition that “the generally understood meaning of the word truck is different than the generally understood meaning of the words automobile, van, bus or motor vehicle.” So in Massachusetts, drivers of passengers–like bus, limo, and van drivers–are entitled to overtime, even if they drive across state lines.

A final note: The FAA Act does not preempt Massachusetts overtime law with respect to drivers of passengers.