A proposed New Jersey bill, A1578/S1450, dubbed the "Truck Operator Independent Contractor Act," seeks to define drayage and parcel delivery owner-operators as employees of the companies they provide services for, rather than independent contractors.

The bill would also allow labor organizations to bring a civil action on behalf of an individual or as a class action.

The bill, which will be introduced this year, is under fire by several trucking organizations including the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association, American Trucking Associations, New Jersey Motor Truck Association and the New York Motor Truck Association. Identical versions of the bill have been introduced in the Senate and the General Assembly.

"Supporters of the reclassification in New Jersey claim that drayage and parcel truckers in the state are being misclassified," says OOIDA in a call to action on the organization's website. "Lawmakers should know that the state would be better served to enforce existing rules on classification."

The changes sought in the bill, OOIDA says, "would run off trucks and discourage them from doing business in the state. Instead, the reliance on owner-operators is a widely used and reputable practice that should be encouraged as a way to stimulate New Jersey's economy."

Groups including the ATA and the NJMTA and NYMTA wrote a letter to Assemblymen John Wisniewski, one of the authors of the legislation, opposing the bill and asking Assemblymen Wisniewsk "to discuss this matter further and work with you to develop appropriate strategies that would curb the intentional misclassification of workers as employees without killing New Jersey small businesses and economic activity."

"Many owner-operators are small business people. They own their trucks, have purchased their routes, service clients, and thrive on the entrepreneurial spirit that has driven our nation's economy since its inception," the letter said. "Owner-operators in the trucking industry do not wish to be employees. If they did, they would already be working for trucking companies. Forcing them to abandon their businesses in the name of ending misclassification is akin to throwing the baby out with the bath water."