Western States Trucking Association files lawsuit challenging California labor rule

Less than two weeks before California’s sweeping new labor law – AB5 – is slated to take effect, the Western States Trucking Association (WSTA) has  filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the law’s construction trucking-specific provisions.  

For most workers, AB5 codified the California Supreme Court’s stringent ABC test from its 2018 Dynamex decision, according to the WSTA’s complaint, which was filed Dec. 19 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

“However, for motor carriers providing construction trucking services, AB 5 provides no test whatsoever; rather, it mandates that workers are employees rather than independent contractors.”

This mandate, the lawsuit states, “runs afoul of federal law which prohibits states from enacting or enforcing any law or regulation related to the price, route or service of a motor carrier.”

WSTA was the first to file a lawsuit on behalf of industry when it challenged the original Dynamex decision back in 2018.

The association voluntarily dismissed its case in September, after “it became clear to WSTA during negotiations with the Legislature and stakeholders that AB 5 would be passed at the Capitol in a way that would render the original Dynamex lawsuit moot and thus likely unsuccessful,” WSTA stated in a press release.

With the subsequent inclusion of “the offensive construction trucking provision in AB 5,” the association has determined it was “appropriate and necessary” to refile a lawsuit specifically targeting AB 5’s construction trucking provision, according to the release.

WSTA’s approach differs from the legal tactics deployed by the California Trucking Association (CTA), which refiled its lawsuit against AB5 in November.

In that lawsuit, CTA challenged the ABC test itself as it applies to all motor carriers. 

WSTA’s lawsuit, by contrast, focuses on AB5’s construction trucking provision in Labor Code section 2750.3, subdivision (f)(8), which does not utilize the ABC test. 

“Given the unpredictability of the judicial system, a judge could rule narrowly in the CTA case in a manner that does not provide adequate relief for construction trucking companies,” WSTA stated.

The association filed “this complementary case” to ensure that “its members are placed in the best position to continue providing critical, efficient hauling services within California.”

The lawsuit states in part, “Forcing construction trucking companies to classify all of the independent owner-operators and other trucking companies who choose to contract with the business as employees would be cost-prohibitive, inefficient and would cause them to have to significantly increase their prices to pay for additional staff when there was insufficient work to keep them productive.”