By John Kearney
Earlier this fall, the California legislature passed—and the governor signed—Assembly Bill 5, which takes aim at the so-called gig economy. This is well-intentioned legislation, and it addresses some real problems in today’s labor economy; there are too many people doing too much work for too little money and no benefits. I’m not sure what to do about that, and neither are the nation’s economists, but the State of California has decided to take a crack at it and see what happens.
Effective January 1, 2020, the status of a worker in California will be decided by a three-part test. If the worker (A) performs tasks under a company’s control, (B) does something integral to the company’s business, and (C) does not operate an independent business in that trade, the worker is not a contractor but an employee.
A lot of professions don’t fit that description, and whole swaths of the workforce in California have been exempted from the new law. The trucking industry feels—and I agree with them—that truckers should be exempted as well.
For one thing, among the nation’s 3.5 million truck drivers are about 350,000 independent businesspeople who own and operate their own trucks and whose businesses are based on contracting. About 70,000 of these people are based in California, and have made it clear that they do not want their businesses disrupted.
For another thing, we’re currently struggling with a severe shortage of drivers; to attract and retain the new drivers we need, the industry is changing rapidly. Shotgun legislation like California’s AB5 would simply be a distraction from that effort. What trucking needs today are solutions, not more problems.
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