Of the FLSA’s many highly technical exemptions from overtime, one that can require a detailed regulatory and factual analysis to properly apply, is the motor carrier exemption. In a new decision highlighting one of technical aspects of the exemption, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled that the proper measure of a vehicle’s weight for determining whether it is a commercial vehicle weighing in excess of 10,000 lbs. subject to Department of Transportation jurisdiction (and thus rendering the operator eligible for the exemption) is the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), not the vehicle’s actual weight. McCall v. DAV, 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 15622 (8th Cir. 2013).

Noting that the rule urged by Plaintiff – basing applicability of the motor carrier exemption on actual weight of the vehicle, as opposed to the more stable measure based on GVWR– would be fundamentally unworkable, the Court sided with a prior decision of the neighboring Seventh Circuit, Collins v. Heritage Wine Cellars, Ltd., 589 F.3d 895 (7th Cir. Ill. 2009)(“Dividing jurisdiction over the same drivers, with the result that their employer would be regulated under the Motor Carrier Act when they were driving the big trucks and under the Fair Labor Standards Act when they were driving trucks that might weigh only a pound less, would require burdensome record-keeping, create confusion, and give rise to mistakes and  disputes”). Building on this concept, the Court stated that the “Secretary [of Labor]’s use of GVWR establishes an objective and predictable standard for determining whether the [motor carrier exemption] applies,” and affirmed the District Court’s decision applying the exemption notwithstanding plaintiff’s allegation that he often drove trucks with an actual weight under 10,000 lbs. 

The motor carrier exemption applies to drivers, driver’s helpers, loaders, or mechanics whose duties affect the safety of operation of motor vehicles in transportation on public highways in interstate or foreign commerce, as regulated by the Department of Transportation. The exemption analysis must be conducted carefully, with state law considerations taken into account.