OOIDA supports Labor Department rule, suggests tweaks

February 25, 2021

Mark Schremmer

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While generally supportive of the Department of Labor’s recent rulemaking on worker classification, OOIDA pointed out some concerns specific to the trucking industry.

Earlier this month, the DOL asked for additional time to review a worker classification final rule that was scheduled to go into effect on March 8.

The final rule, which was proposed under the Trump administration, attempted to tackle worker classification by proposing an “economic reality” test to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Shortly after the Labor Department’s test became a final rule, President Joe Biden was inaugurated and issued a memo on Jan. 20 “to give the incoming administration an opportunity to review any regulations that the Trump administration tried to finalize in its final days.”

The Labor Department then published in the Federal Register a proposal to delay the effective date of the final rule until May 7.

OOIDA submitted comments on Feb. 24 about the rule, saying it had concerns about specific provisions including one involving the use of speed limiters.

“We encourage DOL to reexamine these stipulations regarding the misclassification of certain types of professional truck drivers,” OOIDA wrote. “However, we ask that the department only delay implementation of the rule if it intends to fix these issues, and we would oppose any delay if the goal is an eventual rollback of the entire final rule.”

Worker classification has been a hot topic in recent years with much of the controversy surrounding California’s adoption of the restrictive ABC Test. OOIDA stressed the diversity of the trucking industry and mentioned that the owner-operator model in trucking predates recent developments in app-based work opportunities.

“We believe that the department’s approach in the final rule is more practical than proposals like the ABC test,” OOIDA wrote.

Concerns about the Labor Department’s rule

Although the Association is generally supportive of the rule, OOIDA pointed out concerns regarding Labor Department’s stance that a motor carrier requiring an owner-operator to use speed-limiting devices wouldn’t constitute control for the purposes of classification.

“This example essentially claims that because speed-limiting technology allegedly complies with safety regulations, requiring their use should not be considered control under the new rule. It should be noted that speed limiters are not part of any federal safety requirements or regulations,” OOIDA wrote.

“While we do not believe the presence of these technology requirements should necessarily classify a driver as an employee, these factors should certainly play some role in determining the control that a motor carrier exerts over an owner-operator.”

OOIDA acknowledged that worker classification can be a difficult needle to thread in the trucking industry but said the rules should protect misclassified truckers without destroying the entire owner-operator model.

“Trucking is a challenging career, and there are many changes that should be made to improve compensation and working conditions for drivers,” OOIDA wrote. “The department must recognize that some truck drivers are certainly misclassified and support efforts to combat this. Addressing these issues can be accomplished with adjustments to the final rule instead of a wholesale rejection of the leased owner-operator model.

“We therefore oppose a complete rollback or repeal of the final rule. If the Department is going to reconsider this rule, then it must consider the specific needs of owner-operators to ensure that they aren’t forced out of business, while still protecting truckers against abusive practices and misclassification.” LL

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Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.