• Court Holds Motor Carrier Act Exemption Applies to Van Drivers Who Do Not Cross State Lines
  • October 28, 2010 | Author: Tasos C. Paindiris
  • Law Firm: Jackson Lewis LLP - Miami Office
  • Even though airport shuttle drivers did not transport passengers to or from locations outside the state of Florida, their activity was sufficiently tied to interstate commerce to qualify them for the motor carrier exemption and make them ineligible for overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the federal appeals court in Atlanta has ruled.  Abel v. Southern Shuttle Services, Inc., No. 10-10659 (11th Cir. Sept. 21, 2010).  The Eleventh Circuit has jurisdiction over Alabama, Florida, and Georgia.

    Background
    The plaintiff, Steven Abel, was a driver for Southern Shuttle Services (aka “SuperShuttle”).  He transported passengers to and from the three South Florida airports.  He did not transport passengers outside the state of Florida.  During his employment, Abel was paid commission and tips, but not overtime compensation.

    After his termination, Abel filed an FLSA suit against SuperShuttle for unpaid overtime for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week.

    Motor Carrier Act Exemption
    The Motor Carrier Act exemption (“MCA”) excuses from the FLSA overtime pay requirement “any employee with respect to whom the Secretary of Transportation has power to establish qualification and maximum hours of service pursuant to the provisions of section 31502 of Title 49.”  29 U.S.C. § 213(b)(1).

    According to the Eleventh Circuit court, the MCA confers upon the Secretary of Transportation the authority to regulate the maximum hours of service of employees who are employed:

    1.by a common carrier by motor vehicle;
    2.engaged in interstate commerce; and
    3.whose activities directly affect the safety of operations of such motor vehicles.

    Drivers Engage in “The Stream” of Interstate Commerce
    The Eleventh Circuit court held that even though airport shuttle drivers do not cross state lines, their activity constitutes interstate commerce because: (1) many of SuperShuttle’s passengers to and from the airport had either just flown from, or were about to fly to, places outside the state of Florida; (2) a large portion of SuperShuttle’s reservations are made via travel websites on the Internet (e.g., Expedia.com, Travelocity.com, Orbitz, CheapTickets); and (3) SuperShuttle’s local transport of travelers who bought packaged-deals with online companies has a practical “continuity of movement” within the overall interstate journey.  The Court, therefore, held the plaintiff and other airport van drivers are exempt under the FLSA and not entitled to overtime compensation.

    Implications for Employers
    This is a significant decision demonstrating that the MCA may apply where employees do not actually cross or drive over state lines.  The interstate commerce requirement of the MCA may be met based on the type of activity the drivers are engaged in even though they perform all of their duties in the same state.