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Driver classification roundup
While the Hanjin bankruptcy has grabbed the headlines over the past few months laying bare endemic challenges to the global supply chain, port and truck driver classification remains an on-going area of contention. Here are the latest developments in truck driver employment classification. The consensus seems to point in a new direction:
  • On October 25, Region 21 of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will resume its trial against Intermodal Bridge Transport over charges that the company violated its workers labor rights by misclassifying drivers as independent contractors. The Complaint issued by the NLRB Region alleges the trucking company misclassifies drivers in an effort to block their ability to exercise their right to organize a union.
  • XPO Logistics is facing similar charges brought by Region 21 of the NLRB. XPO is scheduled for two separate trails in January against two different subsidiaries.
  • A class action lawsuit filed by drivers at Container Connection of Southern California recently reached a significant threshold, which could have a significant ripple effect since the company is one of the five largest drayage companies serving the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach with over 250 drivers. The judge for the case granted the plaintiff’s motion and approved class certification. This development may encourage more litigation, since a new class action lawsuit was filed against the largest of the California Cartage family of companies – CMI or California Multimodal Inc. – just last month.
Meanwhile, headaches for Uber and Amazon keep growing. Driver classification disputes are widespread and far from confined to the port trucking industry. The New York Times reported that New York State regulators ruled that two former Uber drivers are eligible for unemployment payments, treating them as employees rather than independent contractors.
This follows drivers in Seattle recently filing a class action lawsuit in Federal court against Amazon.com alleging that the company violated Federal labor law by classifying them as independent contractors instead of as employees.
It seems like efforts to prop up the independent contractor driver business model keeps attracting plaintiff’s attorneys with seemingly no end in sight.
LA-LB stymied by Hanjin empty containers
Whether Hanjin can reinvent itself as a regional Asian carrier or will end up liquidating is still open to debate. Nevertheless, the company’s downsizing is beginning in earnest with its sales and marketing network for its Asia-US route being put up for sale. The aftermath of Hanjin’s bankruptcy continues to plague Southern California as congestion at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach worsens because a solution to clearing the estimated 20,000 empty Hanjin containers remains elusive.
The problem is compounded because these containers take up precious space and because most of them are sitting on chassis that are essentially out of service until a place for the empty containers can be found. Unfortunately, attempts to find a storage yard for the containers has been a bust in Southern California, even though SSA Marine was able to work out a solution with the Port of Oakland for Northern California Hanjin containers.
What’s happening at the largest port on the East Coast?
At the Ports of New York and New Jersey, port trucking companies have decided to use GPS devices on trucks for a satellite-based system to compile data in the hopes of revealing solutions to delays and long turn times at terminals.
While potentially useful, there will likely be the inevitable disagreement over the data and who is responsible for wait times. At the Ports of LA-LB, dueling studies on truck wait times has resulted in finger pointing from different stakeholders. Marine terminals measure turn times once a drivers is inside the gates, while the trucking community includes the considerable wait times by drivers outside the gates.
Frustrations in the trucking community over chassis costs and availability have spurred some drayage operators to purchase their own chassis.

 

Look for this new trend to class with driver classification litigation in the coming months.
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