New York bill renews pursuit to reclassify truckers

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 5/10/2013

A renewed effort at the New York statehouse continues a battle over reclassification of truck operators and parcel drivers underway in multiple states.

Assemblyman Keith Wright, D-Manhattan, and Sen. Diane Savino, D-Staten Island, are behind an effort to classify owner-operator truck drivers as company employees.

OOIDA and the New York State Motor Truck Association are opposed to the reclassification. In 2012, truckers in the state helped to ensure the reclassification effort didn’t advance from committee.

Todd Spencer, OOIDA’s executive vice president, said the legislation is misguided and it could result in a lot of businesses packing up and leaving the state.

“If there is a problem with misclassification in the state, officials would be best served to look at federal rules on the issue,” Spencer said. “Existing law determines whether someone is an employee or a contractor. It should be New York’s model.”

“A broad brush bill that reclassifies all contractors as employees is absolutely nuts.”

A similar pursuit remains active in New Jersey. Gail Toth, executive director of the New Jersey Motor Truck Association, recently told state lawmakers that bill supporters “are trying to create a perception that owner-operators, independent contractors, want to be employees.

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

The U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing the case.

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 New York bill claims that port truckers and delivery drivers, such as FedEx and UPS drivers, “are often improperly classified as independent contractors.”

A NYSMTA letter states that the bill would make it virtually impossible for independent contractors to continue to operate in the state. “It is a job killer that will do nothing to address worker misclassification in the trucking industry – its purported purpose.”

As a result, the change would increase costs to motor carriers, increase the price of transportation, and affect every business and consumer in the state.

The Assembly version of the bill – A5237 – is in the Assembly Labor Committee. The Senate version – S4589 – 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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