In a recent post in the Wage and Hour Defense Blog, Richard Tuschman discussed the Eleventh Circuit decision in Abel v. Southern Shuttle Services, Incorporated, which analyzed the applicability of the FLSA motor carrier exemption to drivers who transport passengers from airports to locations within the same State.  This exemption from overtime typically applies to truck and bus drivers who drive in interstate commerce.  When drivers do not drive interstate, they may nevertheless be found to be in interstate commerce if their part of the transportation is part of the “practical continuity” of the interstate trip.

I handled a case where bus drivers never left New Jersey but because a passenger could buy a ticket and use the ticket for local and then interstate transportation, so-called “through-ticketing,” the drivers were deemed in interstate commerce.  That single-ticket arrangement evidenced the practical continuity required to show interstate commerce was involved.  Similarly, in this case, the Court held that the shuttle drivers were continuing the interstate journeys of the passengers who were disembarking at three South Florida airports and then were being taken by the drivers (Mr. Abel included) to their hotels, offices and other locations.  These connecting arrangements were made via the Internet; Southern Shuttle had contractual arrangements with these Internet travel companies to provide this transportation.

This contractual arrangement provided the practical continuity for the interstate trip.  Where a purely intra-state trip is the start or end of an otherwise interstate trip, the continuity exists.  To be sure, as Richard points out, someone simply hailing a roving taxi at the airport and being taken to a hotel does not place that taxi driver in interstate commerce as there was an absence of a prior contractual arrangement.

This development as well as the entire doctrine of practical continuity is of special interest to trucking and bus companies.  Many drivers who work for such companies work long hours, making possible overtime claims, whether individual or collective/class, of considerable danger. Establishing that an intrastate trip is part of an interstate trip is a magic bullet out of such a dilemma.