California Trucking Association (CTA) Files Legal Complaint Against AB 5

California Trucking Association (CTA) Files Legal Complaint Against AB 5

In California, the state’s governor Gavin Newsom spearheaded a complete upheaval of the labor market. Through a slew of new bills passed this fall, California is redefining what it means to be a contract worker and a full-time employee, while simultaneously changing everything from how people get benefits and find the right kind of insurance.

Taking effect on January 1, 2020, California businesses — especially those that rely on contract workers and hired hands, like transportation and creative services — will have to retool their hiring practices and worker classification. One major bill getting the spotlight is AB 5, which is being described as a piece of legislation that could completely disrupt the gig economy in California, a state that relies heavily on contract workers.

One part of that sector that is feeling the pressure is the trucking industry, which fuels the state’s economy through its massive freight operations throughout the state. However, those in the industry are putting up a fight, hoping to find a better solution for workers.

Taking The Case to Court

In a legal complaint filed on November 12, the California Trucking Association (CTA), along with two owner-operators, argues that AB 5 and Dynamex are preempted by federal law and looks to enjoin application of those regulations to the trucking industry as a whole.

The case (California Trucking Association v. Becerra et al.) is currently pending in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. In it, the CTA and the owner-operators on file allege that the new law would make it impossible for CTA’s motor-carrier members to have the same impact in their trucking services due to how it would change the way companies classify truck drivers.

With the current owner-operator model, which hires out drivers as contractors instead of full-time, permanent employees as the new bill would make mandatory, the benefit is that it provides motor-carriers and contractors the flexibility to meet the fluctuating needs of the shipping market.

Testing The Market

The main part of the new bill that has come under scrutiny is the ABC test, which categorizes drivers as employees of a company rather than independent contractors. Under the new test, an individual is classified as an employee, full-time, unless the employer can prove that:

  • A. the worker is free from the company’s control
  • B. the worker performs work that isn’t central to the company’s business
  • C. the worker has an independent business, trade or occupation in the industry

The CTA alleges that the test will prohibit the traditional owner-operator model the trucking industry has relied on. This, the CTA says, will bring economic hardship to not only truck drivers and trucking companies but the businesses they work with in trucking commodities, such as perishables, throughout the state.

The CTA is trying to address the long-term effects that the new bill would have on the industry and the individuals within it before the January 1 effective date. AB 5’s complete overturn of the trucking industry requires more time and planning from trucking companies to raise the capital to hire drivers and purchase trucks and tools, not to mention take care of benefits and truck insurance.

Right now, the plan is to move forward with ABC testing and classification in a state that relies heavily on independent contractors. The reality is that hundreds of thousands of independent contractors in the state will turn into employees overnight under the bill. Beyond trucking professionals, everyone from dancers to writers to bartenders will be impacted in some way.

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