Truck Drivers Misclassified as Independent Contractors: Who’s Affected?

yellow truck on road

Are you an independent contractor truck driver who lives in California OR drives through California?

Do you believe that you were underpaid as a commercial truck driver?

Several trucking companies are allegedly misclassifying their semi-truck drivers as independent contractors — a practice that allows them to take advantage of commercial truck drivers by passing on business costs to them while still maintaining control over the means and manner under which the truck drivers must perform their jobs.

Some trucking companies might also not be honoring the terms of their contracts with tractor-trailer drivers.

Semi-truck drivers who work as independent contractors must bear some costly expenses, including:

  • Purchase or lease of the truck
  • Fuel
  • Fuel Taxes
  • Insurance
  • Licensing fees
  • Maintenance of equipment
  • Others

When all these costs are taken into account, in addition to the long hours that the truck drivers work, they often are not paid minimum wage.

If they were categorized as employees, the carriers would be required under state and federal labor laws to make sure the truckers were being paid minimum wage for each hour worked in addition to providing other benefits.

Do You Qualify?

You may qualify for legal help through this investigation under the following circumstances:

  • You worked as a independent contractor driver in California;
  • You live in California OR you drive through California;
  • You believe you were underpaid; and/or
  • The trucking company failed to honor a contract with you.

See if you qualify by filling out the short form on this page. It’s absolutely free to participate, so act now!

California Independent Contractor Trucking Companies

In a major decision, the California Labor Commission said that 24 California port truck drivers had been misclassified as independent contractors and were owed close to $6 million.

Other California trucking companies that may be underpaying or misclassifying truck drivers include:

California Independent Contractor Truck Driver Ruling

The California Labor Commissioner’s Office said in the January 2019 ruling that 19 California trucking companies were guilty of wage violations and owed its port truck drivers for unpaid wages and unreimbursed expenses.

In addition, the Labor Commissioner’s Office said that any retailers or companies that hires the truck companies on the list shares legal responsibility for any wage violations.

These semi truck drivers were doing deliveries for major retailers such as Costco, Target, and Walmart, among others.

The ruling came after former California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law (SB 1402) in September 2018 with the goal of holding retailers partially accountable if they work with trucking companies that violate labor laws in California.

california independent contractor

California Truck Driver: Employee vs Independent Contractor?

In the landmark case of Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, a new testing method was announced to determine if a worker is an independent contractor or an employee. This testing method was introduced to make it much more difficult to classify workers as independent contractors, forcing many truck driver employers in California to have to reassess their systems.

Only under certain circumstances can an employer for a trucking company be classified as a California independent contractor, with the California Supreme Court stating, “only if the worker is the type of traditional independent contractor — such as an independent plumber or electrician — who would not reasonably have been viewed as working in the hiring business.”

However, as of January 1st 2020, a judged has ruled that California truck drivers are not subject to Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5) that required employers to follow what is known as the ABC test to classify workers as employers or independent contractors.

Are You Misclassified as a California Independent Contractor Truck Driver?

There are criteria that differentiate an independent contractor from an employee.

Just because you have a written agreement with a trucking company or freight carrier saying that you are an independent contractor doesn’t mean that you are.

What matters is the true nature of the relationship between yourself and the trucking company.

If you are unsure if you’ve been misclassified as an independent contractor truck driver, see if you meet any of the following criteria:

  • The trucking company sets the hours you work and controls your schedule
  • The trucking company controls load assignments
  • The trucking company controls mileage rates
  • You work under the control and direction of the trucking company
  • You perform your tasks in the manner determined by the trucking company
  • The trucking company tracks your whereabouts through a GPS system or other means
  • The trucking company limits your ability to perform services for other freight carriers
  • The trucking company prohibits you from enlisting the help of another worker with your duties

In true owner operator trucking or if you are a true independent contractor truck driver, you will have control over how and when you perform your duties.

You will be able to create your own schedule and perform your tasks without supervision from the carrier, and you will not be limited on whether or not you enlist the help of others with your tasks or provide services for other trucking companies.

California Independent Contractor Misclassification Penalties

Companies who are misclassifying truck drivers as independent contractors may be violating the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA). California truck drivers who have been misclassified as independent contractors may be able to claim up to $25,000 in damages per individual trucker.

In addition, misclassified drivers can also claim penalties associated with being misclassified. These damages include backpay to cover all the missed benefits that the trucker would’ve received if they were classified as an employee, including overtime pay, meal and rest breaks and expense reinbursement to cover for mileage, accommodation and food.

Paystubs also need to be provided under California Labor Law as an employee, failure to provide these can also result in additional penalties.

But each state also has its own rules about what determines whether a worker is an employee or contractor.

California independent contractor

How Contract Truck Drivers are Impacted by Employment Misclassification?

According to a report by the National Employment Law Project, there is an increase in the number of industries, especially in the trucking industry, that are misclassifying workers as independent contractors that should be employees.

When workers aren’t treated like employees, they miss out on several benefits and protections, including:

  • Fair and legal wages
  • Health insurance benefits
  • Workplace law protections
  • Unemployment insurance
  • Workers compensation
  • Employer share of payroll taxes
  • Reimbursement for work-related expenses

How is Commercial Truck Driver Pay Affected by Misclassification?

Truck driver pay is affected by being misclassified as an independent contractor in a number of ways.

One of the primary ways commercial truck driver wages are affected is the lack of overtime pay. If a truck driver is categorized as an employee, they will be entitled to overtime wages. Independent contractors are not.

Truck driver employees will also need to be reimbursed for any out-of-pocket expenses. However, companies are not obligated to reimburse independent contractors for expenses.

Independent contractors will also have to pay for their own health insurance.

Have Any California Truck Driver Settlements Been Reached?

After spending over a decade in court, an appeal made to a 2016 verdict for a Walmart truck driver settlement of $54 million was overruled, with the decision being issued January 2020 in favor of the California truck drivers.

The lawsuit was initially filed in 2008 on behalf of every Walmart truck driver in California. As a result, just over 800 Walmart truck drivers will be getting their share of compensation from the final $73 million settlement that was reached.

According to Channel 3000 News, the U.S Court of Appeals wrote in its decision that the district court “correctly concluded that, under California law, time drivers spent on layovers was compensable if Walmart exercised control over the drivers during those breaks.” The truck drivers were required by Walmart to stay close to their trucks during layover periods, however they were not being compensated for their time.

If there are no petitions for rehearings by Walmart, then the attorneys will return to federal court to determine distribution of the payouts, which will most likely be based on the time each truck driver spent working for the company.

California Independent Contractor Truck Drivers Class Action Lawsuit

Trucking companies are facing class action lawsuits for misclassifying their truck drivers as independent contractors alleging that they are violating the FLSA and state labor laws.

These trucker misclassification lawsuits allege that workers are left having to bear several hefty costs needed to perform their jobs but are otherwise treated like employees based on the control and long hours the trucking companies impose on the truck drivers.

As a result, these long haul truck drivers are allegedly not even paid minimum wage.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that transportation workers such as truck drivers are excluded from being forced into arbitration when filing wage and overtime class action lawsuits because they are engaging in international and interstate commerce.

If you are a semi-truck driver who has been misclassified as a California independent contractor, you may be entitled to compensation.

See if you qualify to file an employee misclassification class action lawsuit by filling out the form above on this page. 

Get Help – It’s Free

Join a Free Truck Driver Unpaid Wages Class Action Lawsuit Investigation

If you are a truck driver who lives in California OR drives through California as an independent contractor and you believe you were underpaid, you may qualify for help from experienced California labor law attorneys by filling out the form on this page. 

If you qualify, an attorney may contact you to discuss the details of your potential case at no charge to you.

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