New ATA-backed bill to improve fleet safety while protecting driver independent contractor
The Alabama Trucking Association is actively advocating for House Bill 256 by Rep. Rhett Marques, R-Enterprise, and Senate Bill 183 by Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Culman. These bills would remove a significant barrier to the implementation of safety technology and practices and improve safety for motor carriers using independent contractors. If passed, the bills would create a safe harbor for motor carriers by eliminating the consideration of a motor carrier’s use of safety improvements when determining a driver’s classification as an independent contractor or a full-time employee under state law.
This week, ATA officials said progress was made regarding both pieces of legislation with HB 256 passing unanimously out of the House and will now move to the Senate to repeat the process in the upper chamber, and SB 183 passing unanimously out of the Committee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development and now awaits final passage out of the Senate.
According to a recent report by the AAA Foundation, “Leveraging Large Truck Technology and Engineering to Realize Safety Gains,” more motor carriers are deploying safety equipment, technologies, and operational practices to reduce accident exposure and improve their overall safety performance. The report studied four technologies, including video-based safety monitoring systems, which can provide significant societal benefits. However, the efficacy of video-based onboard safety monitoring relies on carrier management following driver coaching protocols, which can be construed as employer-like control and potentially turn independent contractors into employee drivers.
Requiring safety devices, monitoring safety performance, and coaching drivers is all fine for motor carriers with employee drivers. But for motor carriers with independent contractors, that kind of involvement can be misconstrued as employer-like control and potentially turn those independent contractors into employee drivers. Those carriers face the unappealing choice of (1) enhancing safety but taking on significantly more worker misclassification risk or (2) maintaining the classification moat to the potential detriment of the safety of the carrier’s driver and the motoring public. From a public policy perspective, this should not be the case.
Alabama Trucking Association President and CEO Mark Colson said this legislation eliminates the false choice for motor carriers with independent contractors by eliminating the consideration of a motor carrier’s use of safety improvements in determining a driver’s classification as an independent contractor or an employee under state law.
“The legislation allows motor carriers to proceed with the deployment of safety technologies, which means a carrier with a mix of employee drivers and independent contractors can deploy safety improvements across the board,” he stated in an email to ATA members. “The legislation does not change any test for determining a worker’s status under state law or preclude the application of any such test. Instead, it simply states that a carrier’s pursuit of safety improvements, which are to the public’s benefit, is not considered part of any such test.”
Industry experts believe the legislation would also improve safety for drivers and the motoring public while also supporting the efforts of motor carriers to improve their overall safety performance.
ATA’s special projects manager J.J. McGrady contributed to this report.