New Jersey moves one step closer to trucker reclassification

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 3/5/2013

An effort at the New Jersey statehouse to reclassify drayage truck operators and parcel drivers as employees took a step forward on Monday, March 4.

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

The Senate Labor Committee voted 3-2 to advance S1450 for further consideration on the Senate floor. An identical bill – A1578 – awaits Assembly floor consideration.

Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, 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.”

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

“Port trucking is rife with independent contractor misclassifications throughout our nation,” Weinberg testified. She estimated that most port drivers in New Jersey are misclassified.

The bill carries stiff penalties for employers who misclassify employees as independent contractors. Offenders would face criminal penalties.

Shortly after the bill was introduced a year ago more than 20 truck and business groups, including OOIDA, joined together to oppose the bill. They say the changes sought would discourage any involvement with independent contractors.

Gail Toth, executive director of the New Jersey Motor Truck Association, spoke at the hearing in opposition to the bill. She told lawmakers that bill supporters “are trying to create a perception that owner-operators, independent contractors, want to be employees.”

“There are thousands upon thousands of small-business owners in New Jersey that choose to be owner-operators.”

Owner-operator and OOIDA Member Ted Millard of Hillsborough, NJ, testified at the hearing. The longtime drayage operator refuted claims made by bill supporters that port truckers want the security of being employees.

“I’ve been a self-employed contractor since 1977. I was able to raise a son and a daughter and put them through college,” Millard said. “Everything is good. Ninety-nine percent of my work is drayage. I’ve never run into a problem.”

Before Monday’s committee vote Weinberg said that she would meet with trucking industry officials to discuss possible changes to the bill. Senate Labor Chairman Fred Madden, D-Washington, encouraged the two sides to meet to work out their differences.

Toth said that New Jersey truckers are asking for changes to the bill that would clarify the independent status of owner-operators doing business at the port.

OOIDA has issued multiple Calls to Actions to New Jersey members on the issue. The Association continues to encourage affected truckers to make any concerns about the bill known to state lawmakers.

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

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