A backwards approach to cleaning up








California retailers are dealing with some unintended consequences of a heavily-regulated trucking industry. From pollution control to its anti-independent workforce approach, the cost to drive and survive in the golden state has become excessively high over the past decade and has revealed shoddy practices from some bad apples in the bunch. Citing more than 1,100 labor complaints by drayage drivers since 2008 and a scathing investigative report by USA Today on the mistreatment of that group of drivers, the California Senate is showing that they are ready to take action. SB 1402, or the “Dignity in the Driver’s Seat” bill, introduced by Sen. Ricardo Lara was voted on and passed June 28 with a 7-2 Senate vote and re-referred to the Committee on Appropriations. The legislation takes aim at companies that take advantage of what they call a largely immigrant and vulnerable group of truck drivers at the ports throughout the state.







According to the complaints and the USA Today report, one-sided lease-purchase agreements were imposed on truckers who were unable to afford newer equipment mandated by the state’s clean trucks programs. In these agreements, drivers were to pay a reasonable portion of their earnings towards eventually owning a newer truck that the company had purchased. However, if/when these agreements weren’t upheld to the letter, the lessor would simply take the truck back and keep any monies paid towards its ownership. These unethical companies took advantage of these agreements by imposing expensive lease payments and forcing drivers to work beyond their HOS limits. The truckers didn’t bring home much of anything as the money they earned went towards paying the truck, and sometimes they owed their employer. In the end, many were unduly fired and lost their truck back to the company and all the money that had been paid towards owning it.







In a backwards way of thwarting this behavior, SB1402 would pressure and penalize customers of these bad businesses by making them jointly liable for labor law violations. For instance, if the trucker would be hauling Walmart’s goods, Walmart would share civil legal responsibility and civil liability with the motor carrier. According to the Bill, a list of these companies would be generated, updated and made available to the carrier’s customers by requiring the carrier to furnish the prescribed notice to the customer.
This bill does not come without opposition. Those that have issue with the bill claim that the independent contractor is an efficient and effective business model for motor carriers and contractors. Moreover, it is not a retailer’s responsibility to police the shipping industry especially because they are not directly involved in hiring port truckers. Many also believe that this is yet another attempt by the state and the Teamsters to unionize port drivers.