Should You Pay Workers for Travel Time?

Business owners discuss whether workers should get paid for driving from the shop to the job site in a company truck. April 4, 2011

Is it expected that employees get paid for the drive to the job site? Most of our installs are 30 to 45 minutes from the shop. They all go to the site in company vehicles. All employees live within 10 minutes of the shop. Would they still get paid for the drive if they reported directly to the site vs. the shop? Back when I was in the employee's shoes, I worked for shops on both sides of this coin, those that paid from the time you arrived at the shop until you returned back to it and those who only paid for time at the site. I guess I am looking for the legal answer, if there is one, not the "how would you want it if the shoe was on the other foot."

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor S:
Check your state's labor laws. They will have the legal answer you are looking for.

From contributor M:
My concern would be that an employee who is paid to drive from home to the job site is also covered by workmen's comp during that time because he/she is on the clock. This places the liability for any injuries from an auto accident while driving to that site squarely on your shoulders and limits the exposure of the auto insurance carrier. Have them report to the shop and then collectively go to the install, preferably in your vehicles.

From contributor K:
This is really straightforward, in my opinion. It all comes down to when does work start and end? When are you on the clock? Everyone, no matter the industry, has to drive to work and back home. If you are going to pay them to drive to the jobsite from home, then why not from home to the shop?

If your crew is supposed to show up at work at 7:30am to begin work at the shop, does this mean you tell them to show up to the jobsite at 8:15am, and they still get paid from 7:30am because it took them 45 minutes to get there? If they go directly home from a jobsite instead of back to the shop to unload, do you pay them then also? It's the same 45 minutes, right? Of course not, work is over. Work starts when you are engaged in activity that makes your company money and ends when you are not.

From contributor J:
This is the sort of thing to ask your lawyer, not the internet.

From contributor C:
Start them at the shop and leave nothing to chance. If they leave from the shop in your vehicle and an accident happens, there are no grey areas - period, especially if one of them veered off course a mile or two to go to a store and the insurance claim rep says there was no reason to make that diversion in your personal car - but they are hurt or car wrecked. In the company vehicle, they are covered, period.

I once had a guy on a job in my truck, and walking back to the truck he got bit by a copperhead. Straightforward claim, no ifs, ands, or buts - he was there to do a job. He spent two days in the hospital and I slept like a baby - I was covered and most importantly, he was okay and there was absolutely no shade of grey. He actually lived closer to the job than the shop and asked the night before if he could just drive there - I said, maybe next time. From now on - my truck or nothing.

From contributor A:
Check you state labor laws, but generally, if they meet at the shop and ride in a company truck, you don't have to pay them travel time, unless they also load the truck, pick up things they need, etc. - then they are on the clock. If they drive to the site and report to work there, then the clock starts at the site. If the employees are a mix between install and shop, it gets murky. The GC that used to be around the corner got hit with about 120k for 3 years of back pay by the federal government. His guys showed up, loaded the trucks, then went to the site and he didn't pay them the travel. All his work was out of town.

From contributor G:
It is a bit different in every state. Either call your state wages and hours department for brochures, hire an attorney or go to the library and read your state code, the regulations and decisions yourself. This website cannot answer your legal questions. Even if you find someone in your own state to give advice based on their experience, be advised, small differences can have vastly different outcomes.

From contributor P:
I worked for years as an installer. Paid several different ways. If company provides truck and tools, then it's clear - employees go to shop, punch in and go to work. Can't punish employees because the jobs you bid on are far away.

If installer provides own tools and truck, then you would be paying them some mileage beyond a certain radius from shop, 25 or 30 miles. There is such a thing as different pay rates in some states. Asking installers to donate their time to drive to a jobsite far away means more money can be had by staying home on the couch for those few hours. Most will look for another line of work.

From contributor O:
As others have said, check your state labor laws. In CA if the employee needs to report directly to the jobsite from home, it is not paid, but if the employee goes to the shop to pick up a vehicle, then to the jobsite, it is paid.

From contributor E:
A lot of general contractors I have worked for pay one way. I think it is fair to everyone. Don't know the legalities.

From contributor H:
I worked for a contractor about 15 years ago and had the same problems with this question. I was his site boss and after around 10 months of doing overtime and not getting paid for it, we had a “discussion” (read: argument). He said “Over time! What overtime? You get to drive around with me to job sites in my truck and I have to pay you for that time too? If it weren’t for the travel time from job to job you would barely be working 8 hours!”

I would meet him at the edge of town, he would come by in his truck, and off we’d go to the job site. Sometimes direct, and sometimes we’d stop to buy tools or supplies. Many times we hit more than one place a day.

So now who has to pay for that time? I say the employer, because if it were up to me I would have been elsewhere during travel. It’s not like I had a choice - I had to be there with him in the truck if we were going to get work done!

If you make up with your employees to meet at a job and then the clock starts, that’s one thing, but if they have stuff to do like picking up supplies or vehicles, then that’s an entirely different angle.

P.S. He won the argument... I quit, and he got some other suckers to work for him!

From contributor U:
I charge for both ways. The employer I worked for paid both ways. My reasoning was I could make the same money working in town and not have to travel. The other site installers had the same opinion. We had jobs in and out of town. They supplied the vehicle and if I was responsible for the vehicle, then they paid for my time while I was driving it. The company did not pay overtime and there had to be an incentive for guys to go out of town to work. The other way guys tried to work it was to charge a higher hourly wage for out of town work and charge travel one way. In the end it worked out to the same.