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Question DetailsAsked on 2/27/2018

Do plumbers get paid for travel time to and from the job?

Billed for 2 plumbers 4 hours travel time a cost of $1,000 as the hours where overtime. The job tool 12 hour 8 regular and 4 OT hours of which the 4 hours of travel. Is this legal?

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1 Answer


Simple answer - generally Yes. Either actual travel time, or commonly an average callout charge which assumes an naverage travel distance for all customers, be it from previous job or from their shop.

OK - is this one of the cases hitting the news of people taking on a contractor off the web, not noticing where he is located ? I have read of a couple of cases involving 3-4 hour travel time each way. Sort of the same issue as the cab driver from, what was it, JFK or LaGuardia - taking European visitors (who had no idea of the size of the US, as compared to Europe where many contries are the size of a Texas county or less) by cab (with something way over $1500 bill) by cab to a Chicago suburb, as I recall.

In cases like that, though would probably take an attorney to win, several courts have held the vendor has a responsibility to notify the customer (verbally or on pre-order confirmation web page or in webpage disclosure) if travel or shipping charges will be inordinately high compared to normal similar service to the area. So, if he is traveling more than say 1/2 hour or thereabouts (maybe an hour or so in remote areas) and NOT coming from a town which is nearby to and would be considered "local" to the service site, he should have warned you of that travel cost - and also the fact you were probably looking at overtime rates for a good portion of the jop.

This is a common issue in my area (more remote than urban or suburban for some jobs) where I have had specialists, surveyors, or HVAC and electrical/electronics repair techs travel hundreds of miles from the nearest city source to remote sites, paid normal labor rates including a lot of overtime for travel and till job was done plus travel back home, plus paying for per diem for accomodations and meals till they drive/fly/boat back to their base of operations. Of course, in remote sites work like that a detailed agreement should be worked out in advance itemizing regular and overtime rates, number of work hours per day and number of workers (and rate for each), per diem amount or customer-provided accomodations (like if performing service at a resort or hotel or vacation lodge or such where customer can provide room and board), and who (customer if beyond normal checked baggage allowance) is paying for shipping cost for needed tools not available on site.

Couple of pertinent facts which could apply here - you would have to determine if they apply to your case:

1) was your job located within their advertised or listed "normal service area" - if so, then if they have a standard trip charge (which commonly but not always includes 1/2-1 hour of work once on-site) that should apply to the travel time

2) did the job require 2 plumbers or a plumber and assistant - generally only for a major appliance rerplacement like boiler/water heater, for a major pipe replacement job, or for a buried pipe excavation job where they are doing the digging

3) were rates fair for the plumbers who came - if one was an apprentice or helper then that worker would normally be billed out at maybe 1/2-2/3 rate for an experienced helper or apprentice, more like 1/3-1/2 plumber's rate for a go-fer type or inexperienced apprentice.

3) WHY you went with that firm, instead of a local plumber - assuming there are local ones - if you could not find a local one to do the service in the timeframe you needed or you had to go with one from far away during a period with a lot of emergency callouts, the travel time might be the price you pay for that expedited service

4) what they did for 8 hours of actual work time, especially if that was 8 hours each as opposed to 8 manhours of work - presumably this was something like a major water or hydronic piping replacement job, a complete boiler system replacement, plumbing a new addition, or maybe a sewer line job involving either a lot of interior replacement or a significant excavation and repair under concrete or underground, and of course if the time spent was a fair amount for the job. If 8 total manhours (4 hours on the job) then a more than minimally complex water heater replacement or such would fall in that category too.

5) whether the work and/or travel time included time out to eat - generally, that would NOT be payable by a customer even though the law requires that the company provide breaks to the employees at certain intervals or number of hours of work. But that is just part of the state worker rights rules, not something a customer should pay for. Coffee breaks are usually considered pat of the work hour - just resting a bit as part of the our's work.

6) I would say which hours are counted as overtime and which normal time is pretty irrelevant assuming the hours billed are legit - either way 12 total hours, by state law in pretty much if not probably every state and maybe by federal wage and hour act also, means 8 hours regular pay (2 hours travel and 6 work, because regular time applies till 8 hours is in for the day or over 40 for the week), then overtime for the rest - which would have been for 2 hours work and the two hour return trip time, assuming the 12 hours was per man, not total manhours. If they were going to go over their 40 hour limit for the week so more of your hours would be overtime they should have advised you of that cost up front. Ditto if weekend/holiday work, if you meant ALL the hours were overtime, though that could have been verbally advised or disclosed on website if you contacted them that way.

Since you said 2 men, for 12 hours for $1000 (8 regular, 4 overtime) would indicate a regular rate (average between the two) of probably around $36/hr if 4 hours were overtime for each, or about $31/hr if ALL hours were overtime. This assuming the 12 hours meant a 12 hour day for each man - not total manhours.

Because what you paid is WAYYY below the estimate number I did beloww and works out to a real low hourly rate, I suspect you meant total hours charged were 12 man-hours, not 12 hours each. In that case, average plumber hourly rate works out to (at 4 hours regular and 2 hours overtime each) about $71/hr if overtime rate is 50% higher than regular, or $62 if overtime is at 100% bumpup. That is more in the normal range for lower cost areas like deep south and much of midwest EXCEPT in major cities - would commonly be more like $90-150/hr regular time in higher cost and urban areas.

Either way, I would say you probably got a bargain - for most areas, a SINGLE plumber will run about $150-200/hr for the initial trip charge (let's assume that includes the first 1 hour of travel or work), commonly around $125-150 per additional hour regular time. So - for total 12 hour work day that would normally be about, at the low end of those rates, $1770 at 50% overtime bumpup, or $2025 if 100% higher overtime rate. If all hours being at overtime rate would have been $3000. At the higher end of the rates, $2150 with 50% overtime bumpup, $2450 with 100%, or $3600 if all hours were 100% overtime/ weekend/ holiday bumpup rate. And on up from there if local rates are higher as they are in a few very high cost areas. OR, if the hours stated were total billed hours, not the hours both men spent on the job, then charge sounds in the normal ballpark at about half the above.

I would say, unless you are in an incredibly low cost area, or they charged more than their standard rate schedule without telling you it would cost more, the only flaw I can find is maybe, IF they knew the scope of work up front, then if they reasonably believed it would take more than till regular quitting time, they probably could have warned you of the overtime cost. But either way, likely cheaper to do the overtime on that trip then come back a second day to finish the job with no overtime - with another similar travel time charge on the second day which would have likely been as much or more than the actual work time.

Course, it sounds like it would amke sense to find another closer plumbing outfit with good ratings and reviews for future work - both to avoid major travel time charges for smaller jobs, and because getting them to come that distance during a time when there area lot of emergency service demands could be real iffy.

Answered 8 months ago by LCD

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