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Truckers. (Photo: Wikipedia)

California Court Rules That Truckers Are Exempt From AB 5

The exemption is the most recent blow to the new law eradicating independent contractors

By Evan Symon, January 13, 2020 5:23 pm

The Superior Court of California in Los Angeles ruled earlier this week that independent truckers are exempt from AB 5.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge William Highberger.(Twitter)

The ruling by Judge William Highberger came less than two weeks after a temporary exemption was granted.

AB 5, the new state law state law that drastically changes what constitutes an employee and an independent contractor, had originally included truckers as part of the bill, which had prompted many to contemplate leaving and for many companies to consider alternatives to independent truckers.

However the judge ruled that it was unconstitutional due to the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act​ (FAAAA). The 1994 law specifically says that that states are prohibited from enforcing laws that give “a price, route or service of a motor carrier with respect to the transportation of property.”

Essentially it gives owner-operators, i.e. independent truckers, the right to operate in every state to both make uniform federal laws possible for easy interstate commerce and to create fair competition.

Judge Highberger specifically said that the FAAAA “demonstrates Congress’ intent to protect the owner-operator business model in the trucking industry and preclude its replacement by an employee-operator regime.”

Truckers and supporters of AB 5’s repeal celebrated the news.

“We get to survive now,” said Roberto Fox, an independent trucker from Southern California. “We don’t have to die.”

“We all like working how we do with our own hours and deciding what we haul and when we go. We like having our own trucks and we like being able to use others. AB 5 would have ruined all that.”

“We’re good again.”

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez. (Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Supporters of the Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) authored bill were disheartened by the result and have vowed to appeal the ruling in court, with Democrat Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer already planning to file.

“This law is supposed to help everyone,” said AB 5 supporter and Lyft driver Connie Langstrom. “If you take it away piece by piece like this it might just fall apart.”

“A lot of other groups are trying to get rid of it or remove parts of it too, including some of my fellow Lyft drivers.”

“This is like a strike. We need to stand firm for our rights and so we a decent income.”

Assemblywoman Gonzalez’s office was contacted regarding the ruling but did not return calls.

Currently freelance journalists and rideshare drivers have lawsuits in court challenging AB 5, with a ballot measure currently collecting signatures for a repeal that would appear as a proposition in the 2020 election.

The next appeal against the trucker ruling is expected soon by the Los Angeles City Attorneys.

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