Liles et al v. Rock Farms of Arkansas LLC et al
ORDER: The Court revises its bench ruling about the commutes. One of those commutes was compensable time; the other was not. These drivers are entitled to half an hour per day more pay for their first morning trip. Calculation for the Judgment due by 3/10/2017. Signed by Judge D. P. Marshall Jr. on 2/24/2017. (jak)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
CLAYTON LILES, PERRY CASEY, and
GREGORY HALLEY, Each Individually and
on Behalf of All Others Similarly Situated
ROCK FARMS OF ARKANSAS, LLC, and
ROCKY HARRELL, Individually and dfb/a
Rock Farms of Arkansas
1. The Court appreciates the parties' helpful, concise, and timely posttrial briefs and regrets its delay in deciding the pending issue. Based on the
applicable law and the evidence presented at trial, the Court revises its bench
ruling about the commutes. One of those commutes was compensable time;
the other was not. Here's why.
2. One thorough daily inspection was required by law, so it was a
principal activity. 49 C.F.R. § 396.11 & § 396.13; Barrentine v. Arkansas-Best
Freight System, Inc., 750 F.2d 47, 50 (8th Cir. 1984). And, in this case, the
morning inspection started the drivers' continuous workday. IBP, Inc. v.
Alvarez, 546 U.S. 21, 28-30 (2005); Dooley v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., 307
F. Supp. 2d 234, 242-49 (D. Mass. 2004). The Portal-to-Portal Act's clear
exclusion of commuting time, therefore, doesn't apply to the first morning
drive to the quarry. Each driver is entitled to be paid for half an hour for that
The Court concludes, though, that the whistle blew when each driver
delivered his last load, not when he got home (or to Wal-Mart in Halley's
situation). Remember: The agreement to keep the trucks at the drivers'
houses was for the drivers' convenience, too. When Rock Farms and Harrell
suggested changing the drill to start and finish at the shop, Liles objected
strongly, and the employers backed off. If that change had been made, the
Portal-to-Portal Act's exclusion would cover all time traveling to and from the
shop. Fairness to both sides therefore requires particular attention to the
applicable federal regulations and what actually happened here.
As the Court said from the bench, the drivers' two inspections were
really parts of one whole, which might be more or less thorough in the
morning or in the evening, depending on circumstances.
tentative conclusion is confirmed by 49 C.F.R. § 396.11 & § 396.13, which
together help achieve an important safety goal: systematic inspection, repair,
and maintenance of commercial vehicles. 49 C.F.R. § 396.3(a). As applied to
our .facts, these regulations require one thorough daily inspection. They
contemplate this event happening at the end of a day's work. 49 C.F.R.
§ 396.ll(a)(l). They also contemplate a written report, which didn't happen
here either. 49 C.F.R. § 396.ll(a)(l) & (2). A day's-end inspection would
allow for repairs, based on any reported problems, before the truck went back
on the road. 49 C.F.R. § 396.11(a)(3). But if no problems were found, the
driver could begin the next workday without another comprehensive
inspection, as long as he was "satisfied that the motor vehicle [was] in safe
operating condition." 49 C.F.R. § 396.13(a). Part of making this decision was
reviewing the last inspection report. And if that report noted defects or
deficiencies, then the driver had to sign it-to confirm review and that
complete repairs had been done. 49 C.F.R. § 396.13(b) & (c).
The regulations don't require two full-dress inspections. Compare the
specifics mandated by§ 396.ll(a)(l) (inspect service brakes, parking brake,
steering mechanism, lighting devices and reflectors, tires, horn, windshield
wipers, rear vision mirrors, coupling devices, wheels and rims, and
emergency equipment) with§ 396.13(a)'s general mandate (driver must be
satisfied that truck is in safe operating condition). If a thorough inspection
had been done the night before, a quick confirming look in the morning
would suffice. As the title of§ 396.13- "Driver Inspection" -indicates, this
second look is an inspection. But it need not be a comprehensive one,
depending on all the circumstances.
Whatever the timing of the
comprehensive inspection, the regulatory goal is met when drivers operate
safe, inspected vehicles on the highway.*
The facts sometimes don't track the words in the book. Here, for
example, there were no inspection reports. Harrell testified that he required
his drivers to inspect the trucks, and intended that they always follow the law.
But their usual main inspection was in the morning before starting work, not
after their workday ended. All the drivers confirmed this, with the hedge that
they occasionally did the full-dress inspection in the evening instead. Each
driver was always satisfied with the safety of his truck before getting on the
highway to start the day's work. Any evening inspection stole a march on
*Rock Farms and Harrell maintain their argument that these drivers
operated only in intrastate commerce, which would make these regulations
inapplicable. Noted, as a general matter. But Harrell testified that
applicable federal regulations required a thorough pre-trip inspection.
That acknowledgment puts these regulations in play.
what Rock Farms and Harrell required, and what the drivers usually did, in
the morning. A day's end look was prudent and efficient. This time was,
combined with time during the morning inspection, compensable. But,
lacking a clear mandate either in law or from the employer, doing a second
full inspection every day was not a principal activity. The brevity of the
drivers' second check, both as a matter of fact and of law, undermines the
effort to stay on the clock during the drive home. Here, the evening check
therefore didn't extend the drivers' workday beyond the last point of delivery.
And the evening trip was a standard commute, uncompensable under the
Portal-to-Portal Act's plain words. 29 U.S.C. § 254(a).
3. These drivers are entitled to half an hour per day more pay for their
first morning trip. Calculations for the Judgment due by 10 March 2017.
D.P. Marshall Jr.
United States District Judge
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?