Truck Drivers and Workers’ Compensation

According to some estimates, there are three and a half million truck drivers in the United States.  Trucking companies makes it possible to ship goods quickly and efficiently across the company, keeping food in grocery stores, medicine in pharmacies, bringing school supplies to children, and basically all other types of materials and goods.  In short, truck drivers help keep the country functioning.  Like with any other type of employment, it is likely that at some point, truckers will sustain a work-related injury.  If you are an employer who runs a trucking company, workers’ compensation is an important component of your business.

One very important issue for employers in the truck driving industry is the proper classification of its workers.  Until relatively recently, it was common for truck companies to classify all or most of its workers as independent contractors.  This is relevant to workers’ compensation, as businesses are not required to carry workers’ compensation insurance that covers independent contractors.  Classification of all workers as independent contractors could clearly save a company a lot of money in insurance premiums alone.  However, an employer’s classification is not dispositive as to whether a worker is actually an independent contractor.  In 2018, the California Supreme Court in Dynamex v. Superior Court of Los Angles applied the “ABC” test to trucking companies.  This rule for classification of a worker as an independent contractor is: A) the worker is free from the employers’ control and direction with respect to how the work is performed; B) whether the worker regularly performs work outside the usual course of the employer’s regular business; and C) whether the worker is usually engaged in an independently established trade, business, or occupation.  The Supreme Court determined that Dynamex had incorrectly classified light and medium only local delivery contractors as independent contractors instead of employees.  Because the trucking company had misclassified workers as independent contractors, and the employer was resultantly required to pay a judgment of six million dollars in a wage claim.  Hovever, the CA Legislature is currently attempting to extend the ABC test to Workers’ Compensation.  Employers who run trucking companies should also be aware that if a worker is an employee, then the employee will be subject to other employee-focused wage and hour rules, such as mandatory breaks.

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