SAN DIEGO – A federal judge has extended last month’s ruling that California’s independent truckers are exempt from the state’s new Assembly Bill 5 gig economy law as permanent injunction is being weighed.
U.S. District Court Judge Roger Benitez of the Southern District of California first ordered a temporary exemption for freelance truck drivers across the Golden State just hours before AB 5 was set to take effect on Jan. 1. At a Jan. 16 hearing, the judge extended his preliminary injunction.
“...There is little question that the state of California has encroached on Congress’ territory by eliminating motor carriers’ choice to use independent contractor drivers, a choice at the very heart of interstate trucking,” wrote Benitez in his ruling. “In so doing, California disregards Congress’ intent to deregulate interstate trucking, instead adopting a law that produces the patchwork of state regulations Congress sought to prevent. With AB 5, California runs off the road and into the preemption ditch of the FAAAA. Accordingly, plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction is granted.”
The FAAAA is the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act, which was enacted in 1994 for the purpose of “preventing states from undermining deregulation of interstate transport.”
The judge declared that his decision was in the public’s interest based on the California Trucking Association's (CTA) argument that the bill clashes with laws surrounding interstate commerce.
The preliminary injunction comes as a huge win for independent truckers as the CTA last month filed a motion for preliminary injunction to cease enforcement of AB 5 on the industry altogether. The bill places more restrictions on employers from classifying workers as contractors.
“Judge Benitez heard arguments under advisement this morning during the hearing but did not issue a decision today,” wrote the CTA in a statement to the Record. “He has extended the temporary restraining order, which will be in effect until his ruling. This could take days or a couple of weeks.”
Independent truckers are just one of several prominent industries fighting the new gig economy bill. Most notably Uber, Postmates and the American Society of Freelance Journalists and Authors are challenging the law.