California's AB 5: Trucking association calls for Ninth Circuit to rehear case

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Trucking news and briefs for Friday, May 28, 2021: 

CTA asks court to rehear AB5 case
The California Trucking Association (CTA) on Thursday officially filed for the Ninth Circuit Court to rehear the controversial AB 5 contractor law.

The move had been long expected, as the CTA said earlier this month that it planned to seek an en banc review of the case, which would require all 29 judges in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to vote yay or nay on rehearing the case. 

If a simple majority votes in favor, 11 of the judges will rehear the case that the CTA says could put up to 70,000 owner-operators in the Golden State out of business. 

The AB 5 law took effect in the beginning of 2020, but a district court judge granted the CTA an injunction, citing the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994, which preempts any state-level law that would “interfere with prices, routes and services” of motor carriers. 

On April 28, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed an injunction in a blow to the CTA’s cause. A panel of three judges at that time ruled that the ABC test for classifying workers as independent contractors couldn’t be preempted by the FAAAA, ruling 2-1 that the test was a “generally applicable labor law that affects a motor carrier’s relationship with its workforce and does not bind, compel, or otherwise freeze into place the prices, routes, or services of motor carriers.”

By pushing to rehear the case, the CTA has bought California truckers more time, as AB 5 won’t be enforced until the legal battle ends.

If denied again by the Ninth Circuit, the CTA could choose to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. 

The Ninth Circuit’s ruling to enforce the use of the ABC test runs counter to a nearly identical Massachusetts law that the First Circuit Court in 2016 ruled was preempted by the FAAAA, which bodes well for the CTA should the case escalate to the Supreme Court. 

Alabama Trucking Association fights truck-only tolls proposal for new bridge
The Alabama Department of Transportation and local leaders in the Mobile, Alabama, area, are considering instituting truck-only tolls on a new proposed I-10 bridge over the Mobile River to ease congestion in the Wallace Tunnel in downtown Mobile.

The proposal calls for construction of a bridge over the Mobile River designated for the use of only large trucks over 46 feet long. These trucks would be prohibited from using the Wallace Tunnel and instead travel over the river on the truck bridge, paying a toll of no more than $15.

Construction of the truck bridge would also mean the signed hazardous cargo route would no longer have to pass through the Africatown community, and hazmat trucks would instead be able to use the new I-10 Mobile River Bridge.

The proposed bridge over the Mobile River would be required for trucks longer than 46 feet and would reconnect with car traffic at the Mobile Bayway.The proposed bridge over the Mobile River would be required for trucks longer than 46 feet and would reconnect with car traffic at the Mobile Bayway.

Alabama Trucking Association President and CEO Mark Colson said in a letter Wednesday to the Mobile Metropolitan Planning Organization and the South Alabama Regional Planning Commission that it supports efforts to relieve congestion in the I-10 Wallace Tunnel in Mobile but asked the groups to reconsider tolling only trucks using the bridge to help fund the project.

“According to local officials, Phase 1 of this project is estimated to cost $675 million with $125 million coming from the federal INFRA Grant, $250 million from state funding, and $300 million coming from bonded (borrowed) money to be repaid by placing a toll only on the trucking industry at $15 per trip,” Colson said. “In other words, the trucking industry is being asked to put up the same amount of money as the state and federal governments combined to initiate this project.”

The association added that, according to ALDOT, trucks account for 7-10% of the traffic count through the Wallace Tunnel, yet “the proposal being discussed places 100% of the cost burden on the commercial trucking industry.”

“Additionally, the proposal only targets a specific sector of commercial trucking: trucks 46 ft. in length or greater,” Colson added. “To date, no rationale has been provided to substantiate this decision. There are dozens of additional categories of large commercial trucks and vehicles under 46 ft. in length that make up thousands of daily vehicles that would continue to use the tunnel and not pay a toll.”

Colson also said ATA is concerned about “the likelihood that congestion will not be relieved since only a small proportion of the traffic is being diverted from the tunnel.”

Bill to protect non-OEM aftermarket parts buyers intro'd in Massachusetts
A bill was introduced in Massachusetts this week that would bring warranty protections to commercial vehicle owners who purchase non-OEM aftermarket parts, similar to those offered to consumers under the Federal Magnuson Moss Warranty Act. 

According to the Commercial Vehicle Solutions Network, current law allows original vehicle and component manufacturers to deny warranty coverage on a commercial vehicle if the vehicle owner does not source his parts and service at an authorized dealership.

“Our goal at CVSN is to level the playing field between dealers and independent heavy-duty distributors” says Marc Karon, legislative affairs chairman for CVSN. “This new proposed bill is a continuation of our efforts that have brought right to repair and access to telematics to the heavy-duty aftermarket.”

CVSN adds that it will work on the same legislation in other states until warranty protection is offered everywhere truck parts are sold.