New York Brings New Standard for Classifying Truck Drivers

by Jana Ritter - Published: 5/02/2014

With the recent labor disputes over truck driver employment rights, the New York State Labor Commissioner, Peter M. Rivera, has announced a new standard for determining whether a commercial truck driver is an employee or an independent contractor. Seeking to help further protect workers' rights statewide, the standards come as a result of the New York State Commercial Goods Transportation Industry Fair Play Act that Governor Cuomo signed into law on January 10, 2014. The law also provides new penalties for employers who fail to properly protect and classify their employees.

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"The trucking industry is vital to how our state operates, from shipping materials that make our buildings, to parts and systems that keep us safe, to the food and products we use every day," said Commissioner Rivera. "For too long, truck drivers have sought to have a clear standard. This law provides clarity for employers and truckers."

The state's Joint Enforcement Task Force on Employee Misclassification (JETF) will enforce the law. The JETF has a partnership with the New York State Department of Labor, Workers' Compensation Board and other agencies.  They investigate reports of fraud and conduct proactive enforcement sweeps. In 2013, the JETF identified nearly 24,000 instances of employee misclassification, discovered more than $333.4 million in unreported wages and nearly $12.2 million in Unemployment Insurance contributions.

George Miranda, President of Teamsters Joint Council 16, said, "For too long, New York's roads and highways were a race to the bottom for commercial drivers. Freight and delivery companies played fast and loose with their employees and got away with it.” He explains that now, the Commercial Goods Transportation Industry Fair Play Act will ensure that employee rights are protected. Miranda also expressed his appreciation of the politicians that helped carry this law through the legislature and getting it across the finish line. “With the enforcement and education efforts announced today, we will ensure that this law marks a turning point for New York workers," he added.

According to Mario Cilento, President, New York State AFL-CIO, the Commercial Goods Transportation Industry Fair Play Act has leveled the playing field for workers, contractors and taxpayers by establishing a fair set of rules that everyone must play by. But, like all laws, it will only be effective if companies comply and if there is enforcement when bad actors fall out of line.

“That's why the enforcement initiatives announced by DOL today are so critical to the success of this landmark law, and ultimately the future of the industry," he said.