OOIDA to focus on Commerce Clause in AB5 lawsuit

September 26, 2022

Mark Schremmer

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The first round of battles over California’s Assembly Bill 5 focused on the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act. The second round, however, will determine if the controversial worker classification law is in violation of the Commerce Clause.

Now serving as an intervenor in the case, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association aims to represent small-business truckers who travel in and out of California.

OOIDA President Todd Spencer told Land Line Now last week that AB5 creates an undue burden on interstate truckers. The Commerce Clause protects the right to engage in interstate commerce free of undue burdens and discrimination by state governments.

“Our issue is a little different than the California Trucking Association’s in that their interest is primarily in-state,” Spencer said. “For us, the majority of our members are from outside the state. If one state’s laws impact everything else, then you look at whether it’s a violation of the Commerce Clause.

“These issues are very much interstate, and that’s where the Commerce Clause comes into play.”

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How we got here

The California Trucking Association originally filed a lawsuit against AB5. The trucking group said the law violated the F4A and the Commerce Clause. In 2019, a federal court granted the California Trucking Association an injunction from AB5 being enforced on motor carriers because it was found likely to be preempted by the F4A.

The F4A prevents states from enforcing laws or regulations related to a price, route or service of motor carriers. However, the argument was eventually shot down by the Ninth Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Most people, including us, believed that this law in California was so broad and had so many different ramifications that the Supreme Court would look at it,” Spencer said. “And based on the response we got from California, I have to think they were thinking the same thing too.”

The Supreme Court’s denial kicked the case back to the district court, and the injunction was formally dissolved on Aug. 29.

AB5 confusion in California

Since then, the state has failed to provide any clear instructions on how the law will be enforced in the trucking industry.

“We’ve tried and tried,” Spencer said. “Tell us how to comply. Tell us what we need to do. There were no answers. None … A state has to provide some mechanism for people to comply with whatever they come up with for laws or regulations. People have to have the ability to comply.”

OOIDA and the California Trucking Association will now focus on arguments surrounding the Commerce Clause in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

Spencer encouraged truck drivers in California to contact OOIDA about any issues they may be having regarding AB5. 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.