The Supreme Court will soon hear a case involving a controversial Port of Los Angeles rule that would require trucking companies to hire their drivers as employees rather than independent contractors. The Court added American Trucking Associations Inc. v. City of Los Angeles on January 11 to fill one of the final open slots in its spring schedule.
The Port's rule came about because it suspected that its Clean Truck Program, designed to reduce pollution as part of its expansion, would be prohibitively expensive for independent owner operators. Port officials estimated that 10 to 20 percent of independent drayage truck drivers would be unable to comply with the requirements.
The new provision requires all port concessionaires to gradually stop using independent owner-operators and move to 100 percent employee-drivers over a five-year period. Consultants had recommended that an employee-only model would provide the Port with the "best guarantee" of long-term sustainability. The Port also believed that an employer-employee relationship would improve wages and working conditions, and that this would be "the best bet for protecting its investment in clean trucks."
At issue before the Supreme Court is whether federal law preempts the Port of Los Angeles from imposing rules on driver employment and other matters as part of its clean truck program. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled in 2011 that the employee-driver provision was preempted, but upheld other Port regulations.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in April with a ruling expected by the end of its term in late June.
What to Watch at the Supreme Court in 2013