Industry groups including shippers and trucking companies are urging New Jersey legislators to reject union-backed bills that would require owner-operators hired by drayage and parcel companies to be classified as company employees.
The bills also would allow individuals and unions to file civil damage lawsuits against companies for improper classification of drivers as independent contractors.
Similar bills supported by the Teamsters union have been introduced in other states, including California and Washington, where the efforts follow failed attempts in Southern California to impose employee-driver mandates in local regulations.
Sponsors of the New Jersey legislation include Sen. Loretta Weinberg and Assemblymen John Wisniewski, Thomas Giblin and Vincent Prieto. The bills were referred to the labor committees of the state Senate and Assembly.
Twenty-two organizations including the New Jersey Motor Truck Association and business, transportation, warehousing and import-export organizations sent letters to lawmakers urging them to scuttle the bills, which the groups said would handicap the Port of New York and New Jersey.
“Owner-operators in the trucking industry do not wish to be employees. If they did, they would already be working for trucking companies,” said the groups, organized as the Coalition Against A1578/S1450.
The Intermodal Association of North America also expressed opposition. It said the bills create “an erroneous presumption that a work arrangement between a motor carrier and an independent contractor providing drayage service automatically establishes an employer-employee relationship.”
Such a requirement means a motor carrier that classifies drivers as independent contractors is “guilty until proven innocent,” IANA President Joni Casey said in a letter to lawmakers.
Casey also said the New Jersey legislation would be preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act, which prohibits states from enacting laws or regulations “related to a price, route or service of any motor carrier.”