Whether travel time is compensable depends entirely on the kind of travel involved. The regulations governing travel time are found at 29 C.F.R. § 785.33 et seq. The employer generally is not responsible for time spent by the employee in traveling to the place of principal activity (home-to-work). This rule is true even if the employer provides transportation. Traveling by an employee from one job site to another job site during the work day is compensable work. Also, traveling from an outlying job at the end of the scheduled work day to the employer’s premises is compensable.
Generally, an employee is not at work until he or she reaches the work site. But if an employee is required to report to a meeting place to pick up materials, equipment, or other employees, or to receive instructions, before traveling to the work site, compensable time starts at the time of the meeting. Also, when an employee is called back to work after going home for the day, the travel time to the job site is considered compensable.
When an employee who regularly works at a fixed location in one city is given a special one-day work assignment in another city, travel requires special consideration. For example, an employee who works in Nashville with regular working hours from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. may be given a special assignment in Knoxville with instructions to leave Nashville at 7 a.m. The employee arrives in Knoxville three hours later ready for work. The special assignment is completed three hours later, and the employee arrives back in Nashville at 6:30 p.m. Such travel cannot be regarded as ordinary home-to-work travel occasioned merely by the fact of employment. It was performed for the employer’s benefit and at the employer’s special request to meet the needs of the particular and unusual assignment. It would thus qualify as an integral part of the principal activity that the employee was hired to perform on the work day in question. However, if the employee took an airplane to Knoxville, the travel to the airport could be treated like regular home-to-work travel since it is in the same city. Also, of course, the usual meal time would be deductible.
Travel that keeps an employee away from home overnight is travel away from home. Travel away from home is clearly work time when it cuts across the employee’s work day. The employee is simply substituting travel for other duties. The time is not only hours worked on regular working days during normal working hours but also during the corresponding hours on non-working days. Thus, if an employee regularly works from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, the travel time during these hours is work time on Saturday and Sunday as well as on the other days. Regular meal period time is not counted. As an enforcement policy the DOL will not consider as work time that time spent in travel away from home outside of regular working hours as a passenger, on an airplane, train, boat, bus or automobile.
Any work that an employee is required to perform while traveling must, of course, be counted as hours worked. An employee who drives a truck, bus, automobile, boat or airplane, or an employee who is required to ride therein as an assistant or helper, is working while riding, except during bona fide meal periods or when the employee is permitted to sleep in adequate facilities furnished by the employer.