After being denied its day in court by the U.S. Supreme Court, the California Trucking Association made a last-ditch effort to prevent the controversial AB5 law from impacting owner-operators.
Legal challenges brought by the advocacy group and Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association did not gain traction in the judicial system. Citing obscure elements of the Commerce Clause and Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act, appellate courts approved only preliminary injunctions against AB5 reclassifying independent truckers as employees. But when the high court denied a hearing on the case’s merits, self-employed truckers in the Golden State largely agreed the fight was over. Unwilling to become company workers, many truckers have left California.
“I am aware of situations where owner-operators have either retired, left the trucking industry, or relocated out of California rather than become an employee driver. Many owner-operators are committed to being independent and don’t like being told what to do by the state of California,” California Trucking Association CEO Eric Sauer reportedly stated in court documents.
A recent filing by the California Trucking Association seeks to reinstate the preliminary injunction it secured back in January 2020. The U.S. District Court will consider its 32-page brief for the Southern District of California. That’s where Judge Roger Benitez handed independent truckers a decision that bought them more than two years.
“There is little question that the state of California has encroached on Congress’ territory by eliminating motor carriers’ choice to use independent contractor drivers, a choice at the very heart of interstate trucking,” Judge Benitez reportedly stated.
Sponsored by California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, the law was intended to rein in employer abuses and help the state secure payroll taxes. It’s not uncommon for businesses to hire “gig workers” to circumvent the high taxes imposed in California. By that same token, workers do not always include short-term gigs in their filings. When AB5 passed in 2019, it included a lengthy list of exemptions. These included veterinarians, lawyers, landscape architects, freelance writers, performance artists, engineers, private investigators, and accountants, among many others.
Despite a long history of self-employment, truckers were left off the list. Unless a new injunction is granted by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, truckers can anticipate that the state would force them to either become employees or haul freight elsewhere.