New Jersey bill reintroduced to reclassify truckers

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 4/10/2014

An attempt to classify drayage truck operators and parcel drivers as company employees has again reared its head at the New Jersey statehouse. Specifically, the bill would deem port truckers, including owner-operators going onto a port, to be employees unless they can satisfy a three-part test.

Gov. Chris Christie vetoed an identical bill last fall, citing harm it could do for any trucking business using independent contractors. In a veto message, the governor said “the approach taken in this bill is overreaching and has the potential to cause severe and significant economic harms to New Jersey’s trucking industry.”

Assemblyman John Wisniewski, D-Middlesex, and Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, are taking another shot at getting the “Truck Operator Independent Contractor Act” through the statehouse.

OOIDA and the New Jersey Motor Truck Association oppose the reclassification effort. The groups were active a year ago encouraging truckers in the state to make their voice heard on the issue.

Leadership at the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has referred to the legislative effort as misguided and said it could result in a lot of businesses packing up and leaving the state.

Supporters say that existing law keeps in place a system that is unfair to workers and unfair to those companies that play by the rules.

“Because of the governor’s veto, unethical companies will continue to skirt the law by gaming the system to avoid paying their fair share of taxes,” Wisniewski said in a previous news release.

Gail Toth, executive director of the New Jersey Motor Truck Association, said she believes that bill advocates are hopeful there will be less opposition from truck drivers this time around because of a down trend at the port. She said that her group continues to work on a bipartisan solution that would exempt independent truckers from any reclassification effort.

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 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.

OOIDA filed as an intervener in the lawsuit.

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

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last summer that the Port of Los Angeles’ concession program falls under the scope of a congressional pre-emption that prohibits states and local government bodies from regulating motor carriers.

The New Jersey bill, A2860, is in the Assembly Labor Committee. The Senate version, S992, is in the Senate Labor Committee.

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