New York latest state to pursue reclassification of truckers

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 2/29/2012

A battle from coast to coast over reclassification of drayage truck operators and parcel drivers is underway in yet another state.

New York lawmakers are pursuing an effort to classify owner-operator truck drivers as company employees. Similar efforts that focus on port operations have come up in neighboring New Jersey and along the west coast in Washington and California.

The New York version would go one step further to address the perceived “misclassification” of truck drivers. It would cover all owner-operators.

OOIDA and the New York State Motor Truck Association are opposed to the reclassification.

Joe Rajkovacz, OOIDA director of regulatory affairs, said the legislation would create many problems for truck drivers doing business in the state.

“It makes the presumption that truckers are employees,” he said. “It is up to the trucker to prove otherwise.”

NYSMTA Executive Director Kendra Adams said the bill is worded so that someone cannot be considered an independent contractor if they are doing the same thing as a company.

“In the trucking industry truckers hire truckers. That’s what we do,” Adams told “Land Line Now.” “This bill would make it incredibly difficult for independents to maintain that independence.”

She said the misclassification legislation in Albany is based on a model that found a problem in the state’s construction industry. And the trucking industry is being lumped into the same category.

“In the justification for the legislation (supporters) point to a study done by Cornell University on misclassification in New York state. The study itself was on the construction industry,” Adams told “Land Line Now.” “To point to that study as an indication there is overrepresentation in the trucking industry with misclassification is a very big stretch.”

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.

Despite the ruling labor groups appear to be pushing forward the efforts to reclassify owner-operators.

Supporters of the reclassification say that truck drivers are not given the same benefits provided to employees. In addition, they are forced to pay out of their own pockets to keep up their equipment.

A memo attached to the bill claims that port truckers and delivery drivers, such as FedEx and UPS drivers, “are often improperly classified as independent contractors.”

Adams labeled the effort a jobs killer.

“This bill could potentially put small businesses out of business in New York state,” she said.

The Assembly version of the bill – A8997 – is in the Assembly Labor Committee. The Senate version – S6267 – is in the Senate Labor Committee.

OOIDA encourages New York truckers to contact their lawmakers to oppose the reclassification effort.

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

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Staff Reporter Reed Black contributed to this report.

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