Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lawmaker Seeks to Eliminate Owner Operator Drivers from Calif. Ports

California Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles) has introduced a state Assembly Bill that would eliminate independent owner operators from servicing ports in the state.

Assembly Bill 950, introduced February 18 by Perez, would classify all port-servicing truck drivers as employees, even if a driver is currently working as an independent owner operator under contract with a motor carrier.

At the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, the two busiest container ports in the Western Hemisphere, more than 80 percent of more than 10,000 drivers servicing the two ports are independent owner operators paid by the load, as opposed to per-hour employee drivers. Similar percentages exist at the other California ports.

The bill, if passed, would almost certainly violate federal trucking statutes preempting states and localities from regulating interstate commerce. According to the trucking group The Waterfront Coalition, those close to the issue in California do not expect the proposal to progress swiftly despite the fact that the bill is sponsored by the powerful Assembly speaker.

The Port of Los Angeles has been involved in litigation for more than two years over attempts by the port to mandate that only employee drivers be use at the port. Brought by the American Trucking Associations in 2008, the case is now in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Port of Los Angeles employee mandate remains under a court injunction while the appellate panel hears the case. The court is expected to rule on the case sometime before this summer.