‘No regrets’ as truck driver leaves California, citing hostile business climate

Brian Gray says he and his wife, Karol, are slowly adjusting to their new live in Oklahoma, but have no regrets about leaving California as costly laws and regulations are squeezing small-business truckers’ profit margins.

“Starting from scratch in a state where we know no one has been difficult, but it will be worth it,” Gray told FreightWaves. “I miss the contacts I had in California, who could vouch for my work, but eventually that will happen here.”

The Grays bought a piece of land and moved to Pottawatomie County, Oklahoma, in early December ahead of the new AB5 labor law that was set to take effect on Jan. 1 which would limit the use of independent contractors. 

Judge Roger Benitez of the Southern District Court of California issued a preliminary injunction on Jan. 16, which blocks AB5 from being enforced pending the outcome of the lawsuit filed by the California Trucking Association in November

Even with the pause on AB5, Gray, who has been trucking for nearly 25 years, said he won’t go back and live in California. That’s because his 1999 Peterbilt is no longer compliant with the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB)  Truck & Bus rule that took effect in January. Under the new rule, he said he wouldn’t have been able to register his vehicle with the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

“I keep my Peterbilt is great shape, but I can’t afford to buy a new truck to comply with the new emissions rule, so I just decided it was time to leave,” he said. “I am tired of being persecuted for being a truck driver.”

Gray, who hauls construction equipment, said business has been slow this winter, but he has his first job lined up on Jan. 25 to haul concrete and other materials for a home builder.

“I think this will help get my name out there,” he said. “I think Oklahoma is going to be business-friendly toward us.”

Read more stories by FreightWaves’ Clarissa Hawes