California Truck Driver Misclassification: Who’s Affected?

row of commercial trucks

  • Are you a commercial truck driver who lives and works in California OR who drives through California? 
  • Are you a commercial truck driver who was misclassified as an independent truck driver? 
  • If these descriptions apply to you, you may have a legal claim under California law. Fill out the form on this page to see if you qualify.

Some trucking companies are currently being investigated for allegedly misclassifying semi-truck drivers as independent contractors

This arrangement allows trucking companies to pass business costs onto a semi-truck driver while maintaining control over the way the truck driver performs the job. 

In some cases, truck driver pay may make less than minimum wage when their long hours and operation costs are taken into consideration.

Some trucking companies that operate in California include:

Truck drivers who operate independently for a company that moves freight are subject to California law AB5, which offers certain protections to California truck drivers.

Truck drivers who are classified as independent contractors can allegedly bypass arbitration agreements and pursue their legal claims in court.

Do You Qualify?

You may qualify to see compensation for unpaid wages under the following circumstances: 

  • You are a truck driver who lives, works, and/or drives through California
  • You believe that you were misclassified as an independent contractor even though you meet the requirements for an employee

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

How Much Do Truck Drivers Get Paid?

Truck driver pay depends on several factors, including: 

  • Years of experience
  • Location
  • Miles driven
  • Haul range
  • Type of haul
  • Any special qualifications. 

Commercial truck drivers typically earn one of four main types of base pay: hourly, pay per mile, salary, or pay per load.

They may also receive additional pay such as a per diem, detention pay, layover pay, stop pay, special incentive pay, and/or bonuses. The amount of pay depends on the company structure.

Owner-operator pay is often based on a negotiated percentage of the linehaul. Although their pay is generally higher than independent contractor truck drivers, their take-home pay is lower once their expenses are taken into account. 

What Is a Truck Driver’s Salary? lists the average salary for a truck driver in the United States as almost $66,000 per year. 

Team drivers reportedly earn between 48 cents and 75 cents per mile for an estimated average of $3,154 per week (for up to 6,000 miles per week), while a company solo driver can earn between 40 cents and 64 cents per mile for an estimated average of $1,183 per week (for up to 3,000 miles per week).

Owner-operator truck driver pay per mile is significantly higher, according to An owner-operator truck driver may earn between 94 cents and $1.79 per mile for an estimated average of $3,163 per week.

Truck driver pay also varies depending on the type of route driven. OTR (over-the-road) drivers, who spend weeks on the road, earn a higher truck driver salary than regional and local drivers.

Truck driver salary also typically increases with the driver’s years of experience.

How Much Does a Truck Driver Make an Hour?

Truck drivers who are not salaried are often paid by the mile or per load. In some cases, a truck driver may be paid by the hour. ZipRecruiter reports that truck driver jobs pay an average of $24.48 per hour, as of May 16, 2021. 

Most truck driver pay ranges from $17.31 to $28.85 per hour in the United States, although some truck driver pay is as low as $10.34 per hour. This is below the minimum wage in California, which is $14 per hour. 

How Much Do Owner Operators Make After Expenses?

An owner-operator truck driver is responsible for all of the expenses associated with the ownership and operation of the truck, including:

  • The cost of buying or leasing a truck
  • Maintenance expenses
  • Fuel costs
  • Insurance
  • Taxes

Because most owner-operator truck drivers do not have health insurance provided for them, they must purchase their own health insurance or obtain health insurance coverage through a spouse or partner. reports that the average base truck driver salary for an owner operator is about $293,000, as of May 2021. The actual amount an owner-operator will make depends on their experience, the types of loads they carry, and how much time they spend driving.

In reality, most owner-operator truck drivers take home much less than their salary once you take all of their expenses into account. By some estimates, owner-operator truck drivers take home only $45,000 to $80,000 per year once expenses are taken into consideration. 

Are Truckers Employees or Independent Contractors?

Many trucking companies classify their drivers as independent contractors, but in some cases, this may be a misclassification. The category in which a semi-truck driver is classified is important because it affects his or her legal rights. 

There are several factors that are taken into consideration when evaluating the possibility of semi-truck driver misclassification:

  • The trucking company’s control and direction related to a truck driver’s performance
  • Whether a semi-truck driver can set their own hours and/or decline jobs
  • Whether the trucking company or driver sets the routes
  • Manner of truck driver pay: hourly, weekly, per mile, etc.
  • Whether the truck driver is allowed to work for other trucking companies
  • The language of the truck driver contract

Truckers who are classified as employees generally have more protections under federal and state labor laws. For example, employers must provide employees with certain benefits such as paid time off, overtime pay, and workers’ compensation. 

Some trucking companies allegedly misclassify truck drivers as independent contractors to avoid providing these benefits. 

If you are concerned that you may be misclassified as an independent contractor truck driver instead of an employee, fill out the form on this page for a free case review.

How Much Do Independent Truckers Make?

On average, an independent contractor truck driver salary is approximately $59,000 per year, or about $28.37 per hour, according to ZipRecruiter

An annual truck driver salary can reportedly be as high as $126,000, but most independent contractor truck driver salaries range between $37,000 and $68,500. 

As with other types of truck drivers, the amount of truck driver pay depends on a number of factors such as years of experience, skill level, and location.

Independent truckers may also get certain endorsements that allow them to earn a higher level of pay. Endorsements enable truck drivers to transport certain types of materials, such as hazardous materials, tanks full of liquid, or oversized loads. 

What Are Truck Driver Pay Laws in California?

California law presumes that all workers are employees unless a company is able to prove otherwise. Trucking companies are not exempt from this law. 

Therefore, if you are an independent contractor truck driver who lives, works, and/or drives in California, you may be misclassified as an independent contractor.

Truck driver pay is often calculated per load or per mile. This pay structure does not include compensation for necessary tasks such as inspections, loading, unloading, detention time, refueling, completing paperwork, and other tasks. 

California truck driver pay laws require trucking companies to pay separate hourly wages for these tasks because per-mile or per-load pay does not adequately compensate truck drivers for the time they worked.

If the trucking company imposes any restrictions on how a driver uses layover time or downtime, it is required to pay at least minimum wage during this time. If no restrictions are imposed on a truck driver during a layover, the trucking company is not required to pay the off-the-clock driver. 

If you are a California truck driver and were not paid for all of the hours you worked, you may have a legal claim. Fill out the form on this page for a free case evaluation.

Are Independent Contractors Able to Bypass Arbitration Agreements?

On Jan. 15, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that trucking companies cannot rely on the enforceability of arbitration clauses to avoid lawsuits with independent contractor truck drivers. 

In a unanimous opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote that “contracts of employment” cover contracts with independent contractor truck drivers under the Federal Arbitration Act.

The FAA requires courts to enforce private arbitration agreements with certain exemptions, including disputes involving “contracts of employment” with certain transportation workers. 

The Supreme Court decision expanded that definition to include contracts with independent contractor truck drivers.

Under this decision, trucking companies can no longer compel arbitration in employment disputes with independent contractors who are engaged in interstate commerce. 

If an independent contractor truck driver has an employment contract with an arbitration clause, the truck driver will be able to bypass that arbitration agreement and potentially sue the trucking company.

What is California AB5 and How Does it Impact Truck Drivers?

California’s Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) restricts businesses from classifying workers as independent contractors, including independent contractor truck drivers who live or work in California. 

Under California AB5, all workers are presumed to be employees unless the hiring company proves otherwise. 

On April 30, 2018, the California Supreme Court issued a ruling called Dynamex which replaced an 11-prong test that existed previously with a 3-prong ABC test. To satisfy the ABC test, an employer must show that:

  • The worker is free from the hiring company’s direction and control in connection with the performance of his or her work;
  • The worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and
  • The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established business, occupation, or trade of the same nature as the work performed for the hiring company.

Trucking company owner-operators typically fail the second prong of the ABC test and therefore cannot be classified as independent contractors under California AB5. Although some contractors are exempt from AB5, owner-operators are currently not exempt.

There are several options that carriers and owner options have under AB5. They can terminate their contracts with independent contractors and hire new truck driving employees, or they can convert all independent contractors into employees. 

Join a Free California Truck Drivers Misclassification Lawsuit Investigation

You may qualify for a free claim review if: 

  • You are an independent contractor truck driver who has been misclassified  
  • You are a truck driver who lives and works in California (or if you drive through California)

Joining or filing a California truck driver class action may allow you to seek compensation for any unpaid wages you may be owed.

Fill out the form on this page for a free case evaluation.

Get Help – It’s Free

Get a Free Truck Driver Unpaid Wages Class Action Lawsuit Claim Review

If you are a truck driver who lives in California OR drives through California as an independent contractor, you may qualify for help from experienced labor law attorneys who can help you understand your rights.

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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