Press "Enter" to skip to content

Drive Time Should Be Paid Work Time

Paid drive time

Drive time for work refers to the time spent traveling during working hours for work purposes. It’s not the time spent going to and from work. That’s commuting and employers don’t have to pay for that.

Many employers mistakenly believe that since you don’t have to pay employees for drive time to and from work, you don’t have to pay them while they’re driving at all. It’s as though driving anywhere for work is all one big commute. This is a mistake. And a very common one too.

One of the top 10 wage and hour mistakes employers make is related to travel time. Some employers factor drive time out of overtime calculations. Others don’t pay employees for drive time at all. Neither is the correct and legal practice.

Employees who travel from job site to job site during a normal day’s work need to be paid for that time. However, they do not need to be paid when they leave the last job site, under most circumstances.

Examples of Paid Travel Time

  • Doing work while flying in an airplane
  • Doing work on a bus or light-rail on the way to work
  • Picking up work equipment at the beginning of the day and then driving to the job site (Pay should start from the time they pick up the equipment)
  • Work errands like driving to the bank, picking up equipment, etc.
  • Driving from one work site to another

Examples of Paid Commute Time – Rare Exceptions

While most of the time travel from home to work is not compensable, there are some exceptions. These include:

  • Home to work in emergency situations
  • Home to work on a special one-day assignment in another city
  • Work performed while commuting

Additionally, California applies another exception. Employees in California who must take their employer’s transportation should be paid for the time they spend waiting for and riding that transportation. An example might be brewery or ski resort employees who have to park far away and wait for a company bus to pick them up. They should be paid for that time. To learn why, see the California Peculiarities Employment Law Blog.

FLSA Notes on Drive Time

This is how the commute is defined in the FLSA:

There are some “grey areas” about when the FLSA requires travel time to be treated as working time. However, as a general rule, “home to work” and “work to home” travel time is not work time, and this is true even if the “commute” is longer than normal, to or from a different work site than normal, or the employee uses a company vehicle for the trips. This assumes that the employee is performing no other work activities while commuting.

This is how travel time is defined in the FLSA:

Time spent by an employee writing a report is work time, even if it happens to occur while the employee is riding on a bus (or airplane) to or from work. Travel time which is “all in a day’s work” is work time. Usually, this means that travel time is work time if it occurs between when the employee first arrives at the first work site and before the employee leaves the last work site at the end of the work day.

The first work site is the place where the employee first performs work activities. For example, an employee who travels to the office, picks up equipment, then goes to a work site to perform the day’s activities is working from the time s/he first arrives at the office. Picking up the equipment needed to do the day’s activities is the first work activity of the day, and therefore the office is the first work site of the day.

Tracking Different Rates of Pay for Travel Time

Employers are free to set a lower pay rate for travel time as long as it is at or above minimum wage. It’s complicated to track multiple pay rates for a single employee. That’s why using a time tracking service that supports variable rates is useful for employees who travel.

 

Employees can use their phones to track drive time away from the office.

Free online timesheets

47 Comments

  1. […] Employees who travel from job site to job site during a normal day’s work, need to be paid for that time. However, they do not need to be paid when they leave the last job site, under most circumstances. They also don’t need to be paid the same as their regular wage, although they do need to be paid at least minimum wage. For full details, read our article on travel time. […]

  2. Albert
    Albert March 7, 2016

    Hi I work for a company in California as an instructor and travel from my house to a different school everyday of the week. I go and pick up equipment one day out of the week at the main office and don’t go back till the next week. so i could drive 20 miles one day and 120 the next, i was told by employer that they deduct 30 miles from that days total miles. I was also told that they don’t pay for my drive time to my first location because “im driving to work” even if its an hour and a half away when i leave my house in the morning, and 20 the next day. Really need some advice on this matter. I get paid drive time only if i exceed 3 hours on the road.

    thanks

    • Timesheets.com
      Timesheets.com March 18, 2016

      Hi Albert,

      Take a look at the quote in the post. The fact that your drive time to work varies is irrelevant as far as getting paid for drive time. You would have to be on a one day assignment in another city to be eligible to get paid for drive time to and from work.

      I hope this helps.

      • Mark
        Mark February 25, 2017

        Only on a one day assignment? What If you are out of town working for 2-3 days before driving back?

        • Peggy Emch
          Peggy Emch February 27, 2017

          Hi Mark. It might be better to ask an employment lawyer or tax specialist that question. I am just quoting from the DOL website.

    • Under paid work horse
      Under paid work horse March 26, 2020

      What if your job is hundreds of miles from office or shop? Say you start at 7:00am and get off at 3:30pm, I get paid for the 8 hours of work, but drive from Bakersfield Ca. To Sackramento Ca. ( back to shop ) 4 hour drive with company truck towing company trailer / with other employees ? It’s 8:30 by the time we get back to shop, still have 30min drive home. Should I be paid for driving 4 hours back to shop?? Boss says no, job ended in Bakersfield. Any body with words of wisdom?

      • Lindsay Sommers
        Lindsay Sommers March 30, 2020

        The FLSA doesn’t require your employer to compensate you when you’re traveling from your residence to your initial work station and vise versa. Your employer should typically reimburse you when you’re traveling from work site to work site, especially when you’re driving to drop off equipment for work. If you’re in California, I would suggest speaking with your local labor board to check the legality of your situation.

  3. Pat Jackson
    Pat Jackson April 16, 2017

    I work outside sales and am dispatched from my home to out of town events – some requiring multiple overnight stays. I maintain the ‘tools of my trade’ at home and never report to the main office – some 60 miles away.
    My employee requires me to deduct 45 minutes of travel time each way (calling it a normal commute) – even though they reimburse my mileage from home (personal vehicle) when I leave my driveway. I argue that, if I were not leaving home on business they assigned, I would not be commuting at all. In my way of thinking, I am in their employ the entire time.
    What is legal?

  4. Jay
    Jay October 4, 2017

    My employer makes me come in on my off day just to turn in my time sheet and then I go back home. Can that driving time be considered time worked since it’s my off day?

  5. edward
    edward January 20, 2018

    To be blunt, so many employers have unfair practices that are illegal. If you feel like you are being mistreated and/or unfairly compensated (not wages), I would seek out the applicable law(s) and follow through with what ever process is needed to correct it. I am a contract supplier quality engineer. I receive compensation for daily commuting (hm to site and site to hm) to the supplier which is about 2 hours worth Mon through Fri. My employers office is in Virginia and i’m in California.

  6. Whitney Brison
    Whitney Brison February 23, 2018

    Hi, I have to go to the bank, and drive to the other job location several times a week. My HR lady told me I can’t be clocked in while driving to the bank or other store location. Said we can only get paid drive time. How is that even rite?? If I get robbed, or have a wreck that is gonna be on me not my work place rite?? I feel we shouldn’t have to be clocked out. We should have to stay clocked in and still get drive time.

    • Peggy Emch
      Peggy Emch February 24, 2018

      Whitney,

      The article talks about just this issue. You might want to contact a lawyer if you’re not getting paid while working.

  7. La Rollins
    La Rollins March 3, 2018

    I work for a pest control company with a company vehicle. I was told I dont get paid driving to my first stop, on some days its over an hr away. My time sheet says field time. when I get into that truck I consider it field time. I also pay to have that truck to do my job. Im considered a detached tech, because the office is too far away to leave the truck daily. Is my employer correct in saying I wont be paid getting to my first stop?

    • Peggy Emch
      Peggy Emch March 19, 2018

      Generally, going from home to work – and an hour drive isn’t unreasonable – is not paid work time, nor a reimbursable expense. If you have more concerns, please contact a lawyer.

  8. Barry
    Barry May 27, 2018

    I started my job 4 years ago. We recently went to paid per job completions. So we get paid $35 for a trouble call, /$50 for a install/ $50 for a service call /$15 for equipment pull/$15 for a site survey.
    They dont pay drive time. They somehow caculate the piece rate with drive time and come up with a hourly total. We spend 3 to 6 hours driving. Then our average and efficiency is terrible. That leaves technicians less than $10 a hour.

  9. Chris
    Chris June 18, 2018

    I drive a company truck, sometime it local sometimes it s three hours away. We get a thing called one hour drive time. Is that if I drive three hour I get paid for one or is it my time starts after a hour?

    • Kelvin Haynie
      Kelvin Haynie October 3, 2018

      I need to know this answer as an employer.

  10. Geyta
    Geyta July 26, 2018

    What if your employer pays you minimum wage for driving to and from the job site ( 2 hours each way). How does it work if during that drive you hit 10 hours? Would I be paid overtime?

    • Peggy Emch
      Peggy Emch August 1, 2018

      You should be paid overtime for any work performed over 40 hours in a week (or 8 in a day in California) no matter what rate you’re being paid while working. Your overtime rate should be the weighted average of your pay rates.

  11. Julie A Weltch
    Julie A Weltch July 30, 2018

    If you work over 50hrs, but 10 of that is driving at a lower wage, does that mean you don’t get any overtime?

    • Peggy Emch
      Peggy Emch August 1, 2018

      You’d still get overtime. The overtime rate is the weighted average.

  12. Dillon schaub
    Dillon schaub September 13, 2018

    If I drive to my company’s construction shop and get there at 5 pm to get the company vehicle and then from there drive to the location to start work at 7pm and work 10 hours (7pm-5am) then drive back to the shop and get there at roughly 6 or 630 am they should have to pay me for all of this time correct? We get to the job site a little before 7 to set up everything for the shift because we aren’t aloud to touch the road until 7pm due to traffic conditions. I should be compensated from the time I leave the shop with their vehicle to go to the site until I return the next morning correct? That would be roughly 13 hrs of pay vs 10. I fee like I’m being royaly screwed out of 15 to 18 hours a week. Please help. Thanks anybody who answers for your time by the way.

  13. Brenda H
    Brenda H September 26, 2018

    Is it legal for my employer to require me to put time I leave from home to time I get to work if its only 15 minutes from work to home and I am not claiming drivevtime or mileage? What if I leave home earlier to run a personal errand and then head to work? I am not claiming the time.

  14. Marlon
    Marlon October 1, 2018

    While I know it is not standard to pay my employees for commuting to and from work, is there any law that prevents me from doing so ? I would like to do this. Thanks

  15. Kelvin
    Kelvin October 3, 2018

    I have the guys meet at the office in the morning before riding in company vehicles to the jobsite. As an employer I pay for all the financial obligations it takes to maintain the vehicles, ie: gas, maintenance, tolls repairs… For the guys that do not drive are they to be paid for drive time, to and from the jobsite? Is it mandatory that they get paid when no service is performed?

    • timesheets_blog
      timesheets_blog October 10, 2018

      Hi Kelvin,

      That would be a good question to send directly to the DOL. You’re doing everyone a favor by driving them to the jobsite but I wonder if they need to be on the clock for that drive since they’re starting from the office and not their homes. I am not sure what the answer is.

  16. Michael
    Michael October 21, 2018

    I have a question regarding travel time to and from a customers jobsite after hours for the purpose of emargency repairs. Is this travel time supposed to be paid to an employee? Examples: after normal working hours an employee is required to travel to an employer’s customers house for 45 minutes, then make a repair this takes 1hour then travel home 45 minutes This is all after hours emergency work, How much time in hours worked is the employer legally obligated to compensate the employee??

  17. Christian A Diaz
    Christian A Diaz July 1, 2019

    Okay I have a quick question, I would appreciate if you can help me on the matter.

    I’m an electrician and everyday I drive to the company shop and pick up the company van. My employer says that I do not get paid until I get to the 1st job site which sometimes can be an hour away. Is this correct? Or should I get paid as soon as I get into the company vehicle and start driving?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers July 2, 2019

      The Federal government and state governments have their own laws about reimbursements, so you will want to check with your local labor board about your rights. An employer does not have to reimburse an employee when they are driving from home to the work or vice versa. So in your case, once you arrive at the shop, you should be paid immediately after that because that is your first work site. You need the van to do your necessary work activities, therefore you should get reimbursed. If you were expected to go straight to the job site, then that would be your starting point. However, since they make you go to the shop first, that is your first job location.

  18. Jade Raatz
    Jade Raatz November 7, 2019

    Hello! I live in Arizona and quit a job that I worked at for 1 1/2 years,. I drove my own vehicle, and was not paid whilst driving or while my partner at work was driving. & getting paid .25c per mile. I spent majority of the time driving and being in the car which decreased my paycheck. I was young and didn’t know it could possibly be illegal. The place is still around too. I am sad for all the employees that still work there. Any advice on what I should do?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers November 10, 2019

      As far as what I know, Arizona’s mileage rate was about double of the mileage rate you were paid. I cannot offer legal advice, but I would suggest speaking with Arizona’s local labor board. However, keep in mind that you will have to have records of mileage in order to get reimbursed.

  19. Tim
    Tim January 19, 2020

    I am in Montana I am not allowed to drive to work they make us take a bus 1 hour there and 1 hour back as I said I am not allowed to drive should I be compensated

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers January 27, 2020

      First, I want to mention that federal law does not require employers to reimburse employees when they are traveling from their residence to work and vice versa. That being said, if you’re asking if you are supposed to get compensated for travel, the answer is no. Unfortunately I am unfamiliar with Montana travel laws, so I’m not sure if your employer is legally allowed to tell you how to travel to and from work. I would suggest speaking with your local labor board: https://doa.mt.gov/employee-travel

  20. Ricardo Andres Bonilla
    Ricardo Andres Bonilla February 4, 2020

    Im an electrician and my employer requires me to drive to the shop in the morning and pick up materials and the work truck . After doing all the jobs for the day at different jobsites i am to return to the shop with the work van and materials . I then jump in my personal car and commute back home . Am i supposed to be getting paid the travel time back from the last jobsite to the shop ? ……. sometimes its a 2 hr drive .

    • timesheets_blog
      timesheets_blog February 5, 2020

      Typically driving to and from work is the only time you’re not supposed to be paid for, but I’d verify that. We’re not lawyers here and we don’t give legal advice.

  21. Sean
    Sean February 22, 2020

    I work for a company that sends me across the country for weeks at a time where I’m constantly putting in 80 ish or more hours every week. I never get overtime because 40 ish of those hours are “work” and 40 ish hours are drive time from one location to another. They will not pay overtime on drive. Only work. But I’m exhausted from driving all these hours at regular pay. Do they need to pay overtime at some point?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers February 28, 2020

      The FLSA does not require employers to reimburse employees when they are driving from your residence to their initial work station, and vice versa. However, it sounds like you’re in a unique situation. I would speak with your local labor board or with a legal representative to get more information in regards to your specific case.

  22. Chris butler
    Chris butler March 31, 2020

    I am a DSP I work out in the community if I leave my house at 8am and it takes me 30 min to get there my work pays me mileage as soon as I leave my house but does not pay me a hourly wage for the drive to get my first client of the day is this legal or not any advice would be helpful I’m just curious thanks

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers April 2, 2020

      That’s interesting. An employer isn’t legally required to compensate employees from their residence to their first official work station and vice versa; however, most of the time they are legally required to compensate you when you’re traveling from job site to job site. You need to check with your local labor board to find out whether or not your state has specific reimbursement laws. Only then will you know whether or not your employer should compensate you.

  23. Sam
    Sam June 1, 2020

    Hello
    I work in lab company I do blood work all day working my 40 hr and I drive more 75 miles a day so And I pay gas and to tolls from my pocket and I don’t get compensated for that also mileage in my car . I live in state of Florida is there is any law say after 30 mileage I should be paid for
    Thank you

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers June 4, 2020

      According to the IRS, an employer is not obligated to reimburse employees when they travel from their residence to an official work station. As far as I’ve researched, it looks like Florida requires employers to reimburse employees at $0.44 per mile; however, there isn’t any information regarding whether they reimburse employees when they’re traveling to and from work. My assumption is that your employer is most-likely not required to pay you for your commute, but Florida might have different standards. You will want to check with the Florida state labor board directly.

  24. Logan Noble
    Logan Noble June 25, 2020

    If I drive 500 miles to work should I get paid

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers June 26, 2020

      Technically the IRS does not require an employer from their residence to their first official work station; therefore it’s unlikely that you’re entitled to any sort of compensation.

  25. elie
    elie August 10, 2020

    I’m an field service engineer and my daily routine is to.
    1. Check my emails in the morning. File field service reports.
    2. Travel from home as assigned to what my task is. Different every day or different sites. My standard drive from home to site is 50-75 miles.
    3. Go home to when task is finished.
    4. Send customer update.

    I dont have a work office. I have a home office desk dedicated for my work.

    Can I consider my first and last work is from my home office

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers August 13, 2020

      Hi Elie, your case is a little more complicated than most. Normally you would travel to your official work station and then receive drive time/mileage reimbursement. Since you’re starting your day at home, it’s different. I suggest that you speak with an HR specialist that understands your state’s travel laws incredibly well because there could be some sort of loophole.

  26. Sean Connor
    Sean Connor September 9, 2020

    I am a mental health peer specialist and work in person with people and telehealth meetings. Our office has been closed since March 2020 due to the virus and we have been working from home. We have Agency vehicles but have been instructed to use our own to travel to peoples houses. I have been charging time and mileage from when I leave my home until I return but now I am told I must reduce my millage every day by my theoretical commute time to our office and also seems to be some question if they want to my for my travel time. I live in NY state, not sure what the law is, this does not seem right.

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers September 14, 2020

      Hi Sean, interesting situation. The IRS does not require employers to pay their employees from their residence to their initial work station and vice versa, so your employer technically does not have to reimburse those miles. However, according to NY state law, “A personal vehicle may be used for State business purposes when a State vehicle or common carrier is not available, is not cost effective or is otherwise not appropriate (for example, there is a need to transport voluminous files or documents and use of a State vehicle or common carrier is not practical). Mileage reimbursement rates are determined by the IRS and collective bargaining agreements. Charges for gasoline, oil, accessories, repairs, depreciation, anti-freeze, towing, insurance and other expenditures will not be allowed. These are considered operational costs and are covered in the mileage allowance.

      Travelers who are required to use their personal vehicles to transport clients or residents or heavy building or construction materials will receive additional mileage reimbursements in accordance with their collective bargaining agreements. The additional mileage reimbursement may be reportable as income to the IRS. For
      more information, please refer to the Guide to Financial Operations Chapter XIII, Section 12.”

      I suggest that you speak with an HR representative or with an agent from your state local board to ensure the legality of your situation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *