California law provides aid to port drivers

September 29, 2021

Keith Goble


A new law in California is touted to end what is described as exploitation of port drivers at the state’s 11 ports and various inland distribution centers.

Gov. Gavin Newsom this week signed into law a bill to bolster a 2018 state law intended to deter trucking operations from misclassifying truck drivers who haul cargo from the state’s ports.

Revisiting SB1402

The 3-year-old law, SB1402, discourages shippers from using port drayage motor carriers who have unpaid wage, tax, and worker’s compensation liabilities.

The rule requires joint and several liability for customers who contract with port drayage carriers that have unsatisfied judgments regarding unpaid wages, damages, expenses, penalties, and workers’ compensation liability.

The state labor commissioner is charged with creating a list of trucking companies to show which have failed to pay final judgments. Retailers that hire port trucking companies with final judgments would be liable for future state labor and employment law violations by these companies.

There is a 90-day grace period from the time a carrier is included on the list. The grace period gives retailers time to cancel contracts before joint liability begins.

2021 revision of California port driver protection

On Monday, the governor signed into law a bill to create and expand reporting of trucking operations found to violate state laws on driver classification, other health and safety violations and any liability owed to the state.

Previously SB338, the rule change expands the types of violations that cause a contractor to be placed on the “bad actor” list to include a final order from the Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board finding that the employer committed a violation.

A list of contractors will be created that violate a law or regulation intended to protect employee health and safety and who have received a final order or judgment from a state or local entity pertaining to that violation.

Additionally, a contractor that has been placed on the list can only be removed once a determination has been made that the employer has remedied the violations.

Information about violators also will be publicly available.

Sen. Lena Gonzalez, D-Long Beach, said the new law will “put an end to the chronic exploitation of port truck drivers in California once and for all.”

“Port truck drivers are at the front and center of the ports and goods movement,” Gonzalez said in prepared remarks. “They are the backbone of our economy and have been systematically exploited by big companies.”

She adds that SB338 will hold accountable companies that misclassify workers and deny those workers benefits they are due.

OOIDA supported 2018 law

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association continues to review changes to the 2018 law that SB338 pursues.

The Association supported the 2018 law, also known as SB1402.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA’s director of state legislative affairs, has said many of California’s port drayage drivers are mistreated. He cited the long hours drivers work in “awful conditions” while being “utterly undercompensated.”

Matousek added that the workers are also often misclassified through “lease-purchase” agreements. He described the agreements as “schemes where motor carriers lease a truck to a driver with the promise of fair compensation, future ownership of the truck, and ‘independence’ from traditional employer-employee requirements.”

In reality, these indentured servants are paid pennies on the dollar, will likely never own the truck, and have zero independence.”

He said the law addresses concerns about lease-purchase agreements without jeopardizing legitimate business agreements between motor carriers and leased owner-operators. LL

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