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Transportation Brief: Plaintiffs’ Bar Restless on Sleeper Berth Claims

by James A. Eckhart

January 21, 2019

For motor carriers whose drivers use sleeper berth equipment, there are two recent cases that will be of interest. The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to pay a minimum wage to employees for all “hours worked.” Reasoning that over-the-road drivers are “on-duty” 24 hours per day, two federal district courts recently determined sleeper berth time logged in excess of eight hours per day is compensable and counts as hours worked. (Julian v. Swift Transport. Co. Inc. and Browne v. P.A.M. Transp., Inc). 

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. District Court in Nebraska previously reached a different result. Citing a U.S. Department of Labor regulation that specifically addresses the issue, those courts held sleeper berth time was not compensable hours of work unless the driver actually performed work in the sleeper berth.  

Given the different court holdings, carriers should review their policies to ensure that drivers—while logged as “off duty” or “sleeper berth”—are relieved of all duties related to the equipment and the load. For example, drivers should not be required to respond to communications or to guard a load during this time. Carriers should train drivers and then periodically remind them that they must log all work time as on duty.  


Scopelitis’ Transportation Brief® is intended as a report to our clients and friends on developments affecting the transportation industry. The published material does not constitute an exhaustive legal study and should not be regarded or relied upon as individual legal advice or opinion.



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