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Mandatory Truck Driver Breaks

A major delivery company [company name deleted] was sued by a couple of their drivers in Cal. over their lunch breaks or lack there of “supposedly” and the company is now going to impose a mandatory lunch break for all “line drivers” as well as “city drivers” who already had a mandatory lunch break.

If the D.O.T. and the state don’t make us take a lunch break then how can they impose such a rule? — Jim

Jim, you seem to be confusing what an employer is not legally “required” to do with what an employer is not legally “allowed” to do.

Even if a company is not *required* to give drivers a meal break under DOT regulations or state law, they are certainly *allowed* to give breaks to drivers. And, they may certainly choose to make unpaid lunch breaks mandatory.

Virtually any employer in the U.S. can make it mandatory for workers to clock out for a 30 minute or one hour meal break, on each shift. This is simply a matter of company policy. The only restriction is that the worker cannot be forced to work while on an unpaid meal break.

Most companies make breaks mandatory to control payroll costs. Suppose Bowie Delivery has 10 drivers working 5 days per week. Each driver is required to clock out for a one-hour lunch daily. The company is saving 50 hours of payroll each week.

If Bowie Delivery did not have this policy, in order to keep their payroll within budget, they’d have to lay off one of the 10 drivers, and give another one 30 hours per week instead of 40.  

An employee may not care about the company’s budget. But, an employer who can’t control payroll and other expenses is probably going to go out of business. Or, the company will be sold to someone who can control payroll and expenses, and show a profit. So it is actually in the employee’s best interest for the company to be profitable.

Many employers realize that truck drivers are probably going to eat at some point during an 8 or 9 hour shift. And, eating while driving is a distraction, which can result in accidents. So, the employer is protecting the employee’s safety, as well as the public’s, by giving the driver a meal break. (The employer is also preventing damage to the trucks, and increases in insurance premiums, by preventing accidents.)

Other employers give drivers meal breaks because they’re just decent human beings and don’t want to see anybody forced to work 8 or 10 hours without a break.

Several states, including California, have laws that require employers to give all workers, including truck drivers, meal breaks. Sometimes employers who do business in several states adopt these policies company-wide. It is more fair, and reduces the risk of discrimination complaints.

Finally, any driver who really, really hates taking a meal break can probably find a job with a company in New Mexico or elsewhere that doesn’t permit drivers to take breaks. Of course, such a company may not offer the same salary and benefits as a major delivery company, but at least you won’t have to clock out for a meal break!

This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008 at 1:44 pm and is filed under
Attendance Management, Benefits, Compensation.
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5 Responses to “Mandatory Truck Driver Breaks”

  1. Diablo 3 Free Download Says:

    Keep up the good work. This is a great blog

  2. Caitlin Says:

    Thanks for the kind words,Diablo! Check back often — we post new material at least 5 days per week. Thanks for reading!~ Caitlin

  3. David B Coleman II Says:

    How is is moral in any way that I, a 100 mile radius driver who does not wish to take a lunch break, be required to extend my day by the period of a lunch hour without pay, or be required to clock out for a period of a lunch hour without pay durring a time that the requirements of the job would have me sitting anyway? It is not moral. That time, or the compensation for that time is being stolen from me. I am not paid to drive truck, load and deliver loads, do paperwork, or any other of my responcibilities. I am compensated for my time and that time or the compensation for that time is being stolen from me.

  4. Caitlin Says:

    Hi David! You certainly raise a valid point. However, there are two sides to every issue. Multiple studies have shown that truck drivers who take a break of at least 30 minutes during the day have fewer accidents. So, in the interest of public safety, most trucking companies require that employees clock out for half an hour during a slow time.
    If you are working through your lunch break, you certainly deserve to be paid for it. However, an employer also has the right to discipline or terminate any employee who refuses to follow company policy regarding meal breaks.
    Generally speaking, employers get to establish the policies in the workplace. If you dislike your companys policies so much, one option would be to look for a different job. Another would be to start your own trucking company, so that you can set the policies you prefer. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  5. Joe Lewis Says:

    David B Coleman.

    This is what companies are doing to bully employees.

    You being a driver can file that you are not being paid a on duty meal since you cannot be fully be released from duty since you are a solo or lone worker as a truck driver.

    Or file a waiver with the company since you have obligations at home with wife or kids. To limit your lunch to 30mins If they refuse you can use that in court.

    You can win since your job is a lone or solo worker and the company cannot fully release you from duty for a lunch break.

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