Owner-operator bill vetoed by NJ’s Chris Christie

CargoContainer2New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie this week used one of his strongest veto powers against a bill that would have barred owner-operators from drayage and parcel delivery service in his state.

The Truck Operator Independent Contractor Act was passed by the state’s Senate May 30, following the Assembly’s passage prior. It received 21 votes in the Senate and 43 votes in the Assembly when it passed, and to overturn Christi’s veto, it would need 27 votes in the Senate and 54 in the Assembly this time.

Christie said he was “especially troubled” the bill carried criminal penalties for companies that misclassify drivers, even when the misclassification was not willful. “Given that the inquiry as to whether a truck driver is an independent contractor or an employee is necessarily fact-sensitive, a prudent trucking business seeking to use the independent contractor model may choose to leave the state rather than risk criminal culpability,” he said.

Overseas shippers would likely deliver goods to ports in other states if carriers leave the state, Christie added.

Democrat John Wisniewski, Deputy Speaker for the state’s Assembly and sponsor of the legislation, said the veto will allow unethical companies “to continue to skirt the law.”

The American Trucking Associations, along with the New Jersey Motor Truck Association, the New York Motor Truck Association and the Owner Operator Independent Driver Association, opposed the legislation.

The measure also was opposed by the Gateway Regional Chamber of Commerce, which represents North and Central New Jersey and the New York Metro area businesses. “In truth, the act is an attempt to force FedEx to stop using independent contractors here in New Jersey, as it now does for ground delivery, instead hire these or other drivers as employees and allow the Teamsters to attempt to unionize the resultant workforce,” the chamber stated.