Trucking groups appeal AB5 ruling to Ninth Circuit

April 15, 2024

Mark Schremmer


Maintaining the stance that California’s Assembly Bill 5 violates the U.S. Constitution, the California Trucking Association and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association have taken the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The two trucking groups filed a notice of appeal on Friday, April 12.

The case surrounds California’s controversial worker classification law, which is better known as AB5.

California signed AB5 into law in 2019. The worker classification law is based on the ABC Test, which requires a business to demonstrate three factors are established before a worker can be deemed an independent contractor. The “B prong” of the ABC Test appears to prevent a trucking company from classifying a truck driver as an independent contractor regardless of the level of control or any other factors.

The California Trucking Association and OOIDA contend that AB5 imposes undue burdens on interstate commerce in violation of the dormant Commerce Clause. In addition, OOIDA and the state trucking group have said that the law’s decisions on who it exempts violate the U.S. and California constitutions’ equal protection clauses.

Recent ruling

The case dates back to 2019, when California signed AB5 into law. In 2022, the case was kicked back to the district courts after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear arguments related to the law violating the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act, or F4A.

OOIDA then joined the California Trucking Association’s case as an intervenor to support out-of-state truckers who could be harmed by the state law.

At oral arguments in November, Paul Cullen Jr., the attorney representing OOIDA, told the U.S. District Court for the Southern District Court of California that AB5 was causing out-of-state owner-operators to give up California loads. Cullen added that AB5 violated the Commerce Clause, which says that states can’t impose undue burdens on interstate commerce.

However, Judge Roger Benitez ruled in favor of the state on March 15.

“Remedying complexities and perceived deficiencies in AB5 are the kind of work better left to the soap box and the ballot box than to the jury box,” Judge Roger Benitez wrote in his ruling. “If sufficient political or economic pressure can be brought to bear by plaintiffs and their supporters, the more onerous provisions of the statute can be amended. The courts, on the other hand, are not the proper bodies for imposing legislative amendments.”

Benitez cited a previous U.S. Supreme Court case as justification for his decision.

“The state benefit of potentially overclassifying all independent contractor worker-drivers as employees may be debatable, maybe even illusory, but ‘the dormant Commerce Clause does not protect a particular structure or method of operation,’” Benitez wrote.

Now that the California Trucking Association and OOIDA have filed for notice of appeal, deadlines for forthcoming motions and arguments should be released soon. LL