19,000 truck drivers just scored up to $100 million from one of America’s biggest trucking companies — and it’s the latest federal-court win by truckers for better labor practices

Truckers have scored another win in America's courts.

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Truckers have scored another win in America’s courts.
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Smart-Trucking.com/YouTube

  • Some truck drivers who worked for Swift Transportation, one of the largest trucking companies in the US, are eligible for part of a total payout of as much as $100 million.
  • The drivers had argued in a class-action suit that they were misclassified as independent contractors instead of company drivers and were thus locked out of certain benefits.
  • It’s the latest win for truck drivers in the nation’s courts.

Swift Transportation, one of the largest trucking companies in the US, has agreed to pay up to $100 million to 19,000 former and current truck drivers as part of a class-action suit filed in the US District Court for the District of Arizona.

The truck drivers filed the suit against Swift in December 2009, arguing that they were misclassified as independent contractors instead of employees and were thus locked out of certain benefits under federal labor law.

One of those benefits is a minimum wage for every hour a truck driver works. Traditionally, truckers are paid for every mile they drive, but a question at the center of court cases in recent years has been whether truck drivers deserve a minimum wage for nondriving duties.

Swift said in a statement sent to Business Insider:

After carefully evaluating the merits of trying the Sheer/Van Dusen lawsuit versus settling it, we chose the latter as continued litigation of this lawsuit would be protracted, burdensome, and expensive for the Company. Settlement resolves the uncertainty surrounding this lawsuit, which we believe is beneficial to the Company and its shareholders.

Dan Getman, an attorney representing the 19,000 truck drivers involved in the federal case, wrote in a legal statement filed on Monday that this case challenged Swift’s “owner-operator” system that allowed it and other trucking companies to employ truck drivers as independent workers even as they acted as full-time employees.

“Their actions ultimately generated an exceptional $100 million-plus-dollar fund for the class of thousands of drivers and may potentially result in changes to the industry that could benefit all misclassified drivers,” Getman said.

Read more: Truck drivers wait an average of 2.5 hours at warehouses without getting paid – here are the 20 cities where truckers wait the longest

Several other federal court cases around the country have sought to ensure that truck drivers are paid for every hour they spend on the road.

The Supreme Court ruled in January that contract truck drivers, or owner-operators, at a Missouri trucking company should be allowed to settle disputes in court, rather than having to enter into arbitration. That suit started when the plaintiff in the case, Dominic Oliveira, sued his employer on charges that it didn’t pay him minimum wage.

In October, a federal court in Arkansas ruled in a class-action suit that drivers should be paid for every hour they spend in their trucks while not sleeping, for up to 16 hours a day of at least minimum-wage pay.

In 2017, a Nebraska court decided that Werner Enterprises, a trucking giant that was accused of pay-practice violations, must pay $780,000 to about 52,000 student truck drivers. In 2016, another major carrier, C.R. England, was ordered to pay $2.35 million in back wages to more than 6,000 drivers.