New Jersey bill would reclassify port, parcel truckers

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 2/10/2012

An effort underway at the New Jersey statehouse would reclassify drayage truck operators and parcel drivers as employees.

Dubbed the “Truck Operator Independent Contractor Act,” the legislation would deem port truckers, including owner-operators going onto a port, to be employees.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski, D-Middlesex, wrote in a statement attached to the bill that the proposed rule “creates a presumption that a work arrangement in the drayage trucking or parcel delivery trucking industry is an employer-employee relationship unless the party receiving the services can overcome the legal presumption of employment.”

The legislative attack on driver classification follows a successful lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit brought by the American Trucking Associations. The truckers group sued Los Angeles over portions of its clean truck program, including an expensive concession requirement that all trucks entering the port would have to comply with.

The ruling confirmed that states cannot regulate the routes, rates or services of trucks engaged in interstate commerce.

Supporters of the reclassification in New Jersey claim that drayage and parcel truckers in the state are being misclassified.

Gail Toth, executive director of the New Jersey Motor Truck Association, said the state would be better served to enforce existing rules on classification.

“If they are worried about misclassification, let’s make it clear who an owner-operator is. That will solve the problem,” Toth told Land Line.

More than 20 truck and business groups, including OOIDA, have joined together to oppose the bill. They say it would run off trucks and discourage them from doing business in the state.

In a letter sent to lawmakers, truck and business representatives point out that the significance of owner-operators is not limited to the Port of New York and New Jersey.

“The reliance on owner-operators is a widely used and reputable practice that should be encouraged as a way to stimulate New Jersey’s economy,” the letter states.

Opponents also note the intent of bill “is to eliminate the owner-operator model and force any individual involved in the drayage trucking or parcel delivery trucking industry to become an employee of a firm.

“Doing so would kill small businesses throughout New Jersey … and do little to curb abuses of New Jersey’s workers compensation system.”

The Assembly version of the bill – A1578 – is in the Assembly Labor Committee. The Senate version – S1450 – is in the Senate Labor Committee.

OOIDA issued a Call to Action Friday, Feb. 10, to New Jersey members, encouraging truckers to contact state lawmakers about the bills.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Jersey, click here.

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