PAM Transport $16.5M wage lawsuit settlement approved by court

August 3, 2020

Tyson Fisher

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After nearly four years of litigation, PAM Transport truckers will finally get to collect money owed to them after a federal court approved of a $16.5 million settlement on Friday.

On Friday, July 31, Judge Timothy L. Brooks of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas granted final approval of a settlement between PAM Transport and more than 16,000 of its drivers. The settlement agreement was reached in February just one day before the trial was scheduled to begin.

PAM Transport had notified the court of its current “precarious financial situation,” according to the court order. The affidavit informs the court that the truckers would likely not get any more than the $16.5 million if the case were to proceed and end with a higher judgment. Of the more than 16,000 truckers in the class action, not one objection was filed and only two opted out of the settlement. Under those conditions, Judge Brooks was “confident that the settlement is fair, reasonable and adequate.”

After attorneys take their one-third cut of $5.5 million, the three named plaintiffs collect their $40,000 each, plaintiffs who sat for deposition receive $1,000 ($31,000 total) and plaintiffs who prepared to testify at trial get $2,500 ($17,500 total), the average amount for each driver comes to around $600. Each class member will receive a minimum of $150 plus a pro-rated amount based on the number of weeks employed as a trucker. According to the settlement, any unclaimed funds will be donated to the St. Christopher Truckers Development and Relief Fund.

In addition to the monetary terms, PAM Transport has agreed to end its practice of charging $10 for wage advances. The company also will stop withholding wages on payday as a result of late paperwork. PAM Transport denies all allegations within the complaint. It also denies that it is liable or owes damages to anyone with respect to the allegations.

On Feb. 6, the court ordered PAM Transport to pay a class of truckers nearly $2 million. The order came after the court granted the drivers summary judgment for some of its claims.

More specifically, the $2 million judgment is for all time logged as “driving” and “on duty not driving” that led to less than minimum wage when accounted for. The order also includes wages not paid for rest breaks of 20 minutes or less. Both claims fall under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and the Arkansas Minimum Wage Act.

The court denied summary judgment for claims that truckers must be paid minimum wage for 16 hours of every day on tour. Drivers also are not automatically entitled to damages stemming from alleged violations of last-payment rules. Also, the court did not decide whether PAM Transport’s violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act were willful or a good-faith error.

According to the complaint, drivers were required to remain over-the-road in or in the general proximity of their assigned truck for more than 24 consecutive hours. Allegedly, drivers were on duty “continually for days and weeks on end.”

Per Arkansas regulations, the maximum amount of time an employer may dock an employee who is on duty for more than 24 hours for time spent in a sleeper berth is eight hours per day. The remaining 16 hours is work time and must be paid, minus meal periods. Plaintiffs argue they are entitled to 16 hours of pay because they were required to do the following during that time:

  • Drive a PAM Transport truck.
  • Remain in the truck while the truck was moving so they could assist in transporting the cargo (team drivers).
  • Wait for cargo to be loaded or unloaded while in the truck or its immediate vicinity.
  • Fuel up the truck and perform routine maintenance.
  • Remain in the vicinity of the truck to help protect PAM Transport’s customers’ property.
  • Remain inside the truck when stopped to log time in the sleeper berth and to help protect customer’s property.

Drivers also cite another Arkansas law that states travel that keeps an employee away from home overnight which is completed during regular working hours is work time and must be paid.

Tyson Fisher

Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.