Goodbye, 2021. Hello, 2022. What do you have in store for us? More supply chain issues? More port congestion? More driver issues? More topsy-turvy developments?
Probably a little bit of everything, according to FreightWaves writers. We asked our people on the front lines to look into the 2022 crystal ball and offer up predictions on their respective beats. It promises to again be a newsworthy year in the freight industry, which took center stage on many of the nightly newscasts in 2021.
DRIVERS by John KingstonThe biggest development in the issue of worker classification in 2022 may get pushed to 2023. If it doesn’t, it will have enormous ramifications.
What the ever-changing legal landscape for worker classification is waiting on is a resolution to the question of whether California’s AB5 independent contractor law can be applied to trucking. How AB5 would affect trucking in the Golden State is the subject of much debate, but the mere fact that some observers think it would just about kill the IC model in the state indicates its importance.
For two years now, an injunction handed down at the start of 2020 has blocked its implementation because a lower federal court judge concluded AB5 conflicted with a 1990s federal law known as the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act. That lower court ruling was reversed by an appellate court in April but the injunction stayed in place while the California Trucking Association, which brought the original lawsuit, pursued an appeal that reached the U.S. Supreme Court. SCOTUS then asked the U.S. solicitor general to weigh in.
There’s no deadline on when the solicitor general needs to respond to the court. And there’s no deadline on when SCOTUS needs to hand down its rule. One scenario has the ruling not coming until after the court session begins in October, meaning resolution may wait for another year.
If the appellate court decision is overturned, and AB5’s definition of independent contractors becomes law for the trucking sector, the changes in business models in the state could be sweeping. Exactly what companies will do remains uncertain. But the status quo could not hold.
Two other significant developments regarding the status of independent contractors — like truck owner-operators — are on the horizon for 2022.
One is expected to be the Biden administration’s proposal for a new federal rule defining independent contractors. A Trump administration rule implemented just before President Biden was sworn into office was withdrawn. Whatever rule is implemented, it will impact policies at the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor.
Another key development on the question of independent contractor definition will appear on the ballot in Massachusetts in November. That state will vote on whether to implement its version of the California referendum, Prop 22, that sought to keep gig drivers such as those who work for Uber as independent contractors. Prop 22 in California was in direct reaction to AB5. But even in California, a state court has ruled that Prop 22 was unconstitutional, throwing that guideline into doubt as well.