If you are a newbie trucker, you might be wondering if a trucking company can hold your paycheck, or if there is any reason why you might experience a dock in pay. Sometimes, companies will take away employee pay or keep paychecks if there is a minor accident or a cash advance made by the trucker. However, the law regarding trucking companies and paychecks will differ depending on the state in which you live.

So, can a trucking company hold your paycheck? Yes, a trucking company can keep your paycheck or deduct pay from your check depending upon the state in which you reside. In some states, holding your paycheck and deducting a truck driver’s fee for anything else but taxes or court-ordered garnishments is entirely illegal. However, in some cases, a driver’s pay can be docked or hold a check if the driver blew a tire or experienced an accident. 

Since there isn’t a lot of information available on the Internet today discussing how a trucking company can hold your paycheck or dock your pay, we decided to help you out by creating this guide. Below we will discuss when paychecks can be held or docked and why trucking companies are occasionally allowed to do this to their employees.

Pay Docking and Check Withholding

When it comes to trucking, some companies do dock a driver’s pay under some circumstances, which can result in check withholding. For instance, if a driver hits a curb and blows out a tire or incurs some other type of accident while working, they may have to pay for the damages. Also, if the driver takes out a cash advance depending on the state in which he or she resides, that could create a pay docking or check withholding issue as well.

However, the docking of pay and check withholding in the world of trucking depends heavily on the state in which the company is located. For example, in New York State, companies are not allowed to deduct a driver’s pay for anything except taxes or court-ordered wage garnishments. If a company deducts a driver’s payment in New York State for any other reason, the action is entirely illegal. So, truckers that work for companies in New York state cannot get cash advances and should never have their pay docked.

While such actions are illegal in New York State, if you work for a company that resides in Indiana, then it is entirely legal to dock an employee’s pay. In Indiana, truckers can take out cash advances. Also, if a company in Indiana chooses to withhold or deduct a fee from a trucker’s payment because of some accident that caused damage, it’s even legal for them to do so.

So, how can you tell when it is legal and when it is illegal to have a trucker’s paycheck withheld or for any payment to be docked? The best way to figure this out is to do some research on your company’s home state’s wage and hour laws.

Keep in mind that there are some trucking companies, for example, Celadon, that has a location in Indiana. Still, their corporate address is in Delaware (where, unlike Indiana, it is illegal to dock a trucker’s pay or withhold a paycheck). Companies like this are required to follow the wage and hour laws in the state they could be sued in, which usually applies to the corporate address. However, in some cases, you may need to do a little extra research to find out the entire story.

When Trucking Companies Can Withhold Money and Checks

Sometimes, depending on the state in which they reside, trucking companies can withhold money and checks. For example, sometimes companies make a mistake and wind up overpaying hourly wages. When that happens, the company might wonder if they can deduct any overpayment from an employee’s next check.

Also, when a separation of employment happens, some employers figure out that it might be their last opportunity to figure out the finances. When that happens, many trucking companies wonder how to approach things. For instance, if an employee walks off a job and still has a company cell phone in his or her possession, some trucking companies will wonder if they can withhold pay or a paycheck to settle the score.

Since many unique paycheck issues can happen depending on the relationship between the employer and the employee, trucking companies should stay aware of their state’s wage laws. By staying aware of local wage laws, trucking companies can make sure they operate fairly and ethically when they withhold a check or a certain amount of money from a check.

Withholding Laws

Different withholding laws apply to different states. Each state has a Department of Labor and Industries, which works to enforce the rules and regulations that apply to all employee’s wages. For example, back in 2011, the L and I gathered up $1.9 million in payments that went unpaid for employees that worked in Washington businesses.

When pay issues arise, they can be both contentious and litigious. However, each state does have rules and regulations in place, and it’s best to know the rules rather than having to incur penalties and pay those later. In most circumstances, throughout the employment period, you can only deduct from an employee’s wages to the point where they still receive minimum wage. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule, which we’ve listed below.

  • Some employees enroll in the employer-sponsored benefits plan. When employees do that, they allow their employers to take the associated deductions immediately out of their paychecks.
  • Some employers loan money to their employees or offer them payroll advances. In these cases, sometimes you can get repayment right out of their paycheck.
  • Also, in some states, you can charge your employees interest on any loans, as long as everything seems reasonable.

However, to make sure you are always following the appropriate rules, you’ll want to check with your state’s laws and regulations. If you are allowed to withhold paychecks or amounts from paychecks, you’ll also need to ensure that you have written authorization from the employee for the deductions you are taking out of their paycheck, or for withholding their paycheck.

Over-Paying Truckers

Unfortunately, sometimes a mistake occurs, and you’ll wind up overpaying one of your truckers. If you wind up overpaying because you paid an employee a higher wage than initially agreed upon, you can take the overpayment back in most circumstances. However, much of this will depend on the state in which you reside. In Washington, it is perfectly legal to recoup expenses you’ve incurred because you’ve been overpaying an employee.

If a trucking company is trying to get money back because of paying the wrong wage, or because the overpaid on an incorrect number of hours, then it’s possible to get that money back. However, trucking companies are never allowed to withhold payment or a paycheck from a trucker because an employee did shoddy work, or because the company feels the trucker doesn’t deserve the money the company is paying the trucker.

If a trucking company is trying to recoup expenses for overpayment, there are some laws that the company would need to follow if they wanted to correctly and lawfully recover their payment. Whenever you overpay a trucker, you’ll have ninety days from that overpayment to notice it, and then put a repayment plan in place. Whenever something like this happens, the trucking company must give the trucker an advance written notice before they make any adjustments.

Docking for Shortages

Now that you know how trucking companies typically handle recouping an overpayment of an employee, we’ll discuss whether or not trucking companies can withhold your paycheck or withhold any of your pay because of a shortage. However, whether it’s a shortage in your truck or a deficiency in a till with a retail employee, companies are not allowed to dock any employee’s pay over a shortage.

However, there is one general exception to the docking for shortages rule. A company would be allowed to dock for shortages if it is the trucker’s final paycheck. However, if the trucking company is going to do this legally, they’ll have to make sure they have policies with which the employee is aware.

Also, the employee must have counted the supplies or money before this event, and also must have been the only person to access the items while they worked. Most trucking companies also use this policy when it comes to things breaking, equipment damages, or accepting a bad check that is a violation of the company’s expectations.

In all of the situations like the ones we’ve covered above, a trucking company can only withhold a paycheck or deduct pay if they have a prior agreement with the employee that states this. Also, the situation must happen during the final pay period of the employee. The trucking company will also need to make sure they never reduce the trucker’s pay to less than the minimum wage. If all of these rules apply, then the trucking company can withhold a paycheck or deduct your payment.

Withholding a Final Paycheck for Company Property

Now that we’ve covered the way payment deductions and check withholding works with final paychecks and trucking companies, we’ll include whether you can withhold the last paycheck if you are trying to get an employee to return some company property. While laws on final paychecks differ from state to state, in Washington, terminated employees must receive their pay by the next regularly scheduled payment date.

So, the trucking company isn’t obliged to give a trucker a payment on the trucker’s last day of work. However, the trucking company would still have to pay the trucker by the next regularly scheduled pay date. That also means that by law, a trucking company can not withhold a trucker’s paycheck until that trucker has returned the company property. Unfortunately, if you don’t pay any terminated truckers on time, you might wind up getting sued and civil court and paying twice the damages.

If you do issue company property to your truckers, like some safety equipment or cell phones, then you’ll have to have the truckers sign a contract with your company saying the truckers will return all company property if they are terminated. So, we recommend making sure you have an agreement in a place like this to avoid any issues. If you want to use this type of arrangement, you’ll need to include the following in the agreement:

  • How much the items the company loaned out to the employee cost.
  • Clear writing that states the employee has to repay the company if they fail to return the items.
  • A signed acknowledgment stating the trucker is aware that the trucking company can withhold a certain amount for the items loaned from their final paycheck if the trucker does not return the items.

Keep in mind once again that whenever you do apply a deduction of pay, or you withhold a paycheck, you won’t be able to pay your employee less than minimum wage. If it turns out that the trucker still owes the company money after applying this law, then the trucking company may need to take the trucker to small claims court to recoup the rest of the expenses.

Trucker Payroll Advances

Now that we’ve discussed what a trucking company can do about equipment a trucker may not have returned, we’ll move onto discuss how a trucking company can lawfully recover money if the trucker has received an employee payroll advance. With the current state of the economy still in recovery, some trucking companies find that they need to give truckers a payroll advance to help them when they are short on cash.

If you are the type of trucking company that likes to do all you can for your truckers and you offer payroll advances, then you’ll need to keep a few things in mind when it comes to recouping that money. First, you’ll want to create an agreement with the employee and document the terms of the agreement in writing. Have the employee sign the deal and make sure you also sign the contract with the employee.

Once you have an agreement in place and writing, you’ll be able to lawfully recover any unpaid amounts of employee advances from a final paycheck. You’ll also be able to get everything back from your payroll advance, even if it makes the trucker’s pay fall under minimum wage.

Termination Pay

Whether your employee gets fired or he or she quits, you’ll still have to give that employee his or her final paycheck. So, in the employee’s last paycheck, you’ll need to make sure you’ve included the trucker’s usual wages from the latest pay period, and any other compensation the trucker deserves, like vacation time, bonuses, etc.

You’ll be allowed to withhold money from a paycheck or withhold the paycheck if the trucker owes your business something, and you have a written agreement in place with that employee. For instance, let’s say a trucker still owes your trucking company for a salary advance they took. If the employee owes more than the total of his or her final paycheck, the trucking company will have to try to collect the rest of the money owed from the trucker by some other means.

So, regardless of the situation at hand, the trucking company must give the trucker his or her final paycheck. Also, the trucking company won’t be able to withhold unpaid wages that an employee is owed even if the employee is terminated. A trucking company is never allowed to attach a condition of receipt to a trucker’s last paycheck.

It’s important to remember that final paycheck laws vary widely by state. However, by providing a trucker that’s been fired their last paycheck on their final day, you’ll wind up making things simpler for you. You won’t have to mail the check or ask the employee to pick the check-up. You’ll instead be able to ensure that the employee receives that final paycheck, which is essential when it comes to avoiding legal issues.

Remember that a trucker’s last paycheck doesn’t equal the concept of severance pay. When severance pay is involved, you’ll be giving money to an employee for a designated time after the trucker loses his or her job. Final paychecks are typically not negotiable, but severance pay is usually negotiable. Plus, it’s a good idea to have your truckers sign something stating they won’t sue your trucking company if you pay them severance pay.

Final Thoughts

According to federal law, a trucking company doesn’t have to give a trucker his or her last paycheck right away. However, state law may require the trucking company to do so. Since every state has different requirements covering how to handle an employee’s last paycheck, it can vary depending on whether the trucker quits or is fired. For instance, most employees that are fired should get their paychecks on their last day of work, while truckers that leave should get their final check the next payday.

So, when it comes to trucking companies withholding payment and paychecks, what a trucking company can or cannot do varies widely depending on the state in which they reside

About the Author

Blythe Brumleve
Blythe Brumleve
Creative entrepreneur in freight. Founder of Digital Dispatch and host of Everything is Logistics. Co-Founder at Jax Podcasters Unite. Board member of Transportation Marketing and Sales Association. Freightwaves on-air personality. Annoying Jaguars fan. test

To read more about Blythe, check out her full bio here.