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May 12, 2016

TRUCKERS' CLASSIFICATION * USA: Trucking firms into labor dispute

* California - Short-haul trucking industry weighs into legal debate over how to classify workers

--- The nation’s busiest ports are emerging as a key battleground in the legal fight over whether truck drivers should be counted as employees or independent contractors... Several trucking companies operating at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles have filed for bankruptcy protection in recent months, citing mounting costs to settle hundreds of legal claims. These operators haul containers from the docks to rail yards and freight depots, a key journey of just a few miles that allows major retailers and manufacturers to quickly move their imported goods to stores and factories across the country... The bankruptcies in the trucking sector come as some higher-profile cases in the debate over employee status are paying out hefty settlements. The $12 billion-a-year port-trucking business, known as drayage, where hundreds of small operators compete on thin margins, the cost to settle similar claims can be overwhelming, analysts say... The turmoil raises questions about the future of short-haul trucking at the nation’s ports. Litigation with drivers and the higher cost of full-time labor could force drayage operators to charge more for their services or it could put them out of business entirely, reducing the overall number of carriers and raising costs for shippers, analysts say... The California Labor Commissioner’s Office last week began offering port-trucking companies “amnesty” from any penalties they’ve incurred for misclassifying drivers if they voluntarily make their drivers full-time employees and provide back pay. The state Department of Industrial Relations said Tuesday that no companies have applied for the program so far... 
(Photo: The trucking industry is bracing for the classification fight to spread to U.S. ports beyond the ports of Los Angeles, shown, and Long Beach)   --  Los Angeles, CAL, USA - The WSJ, by ERICA E. PHILLIPS - May 11, 2016

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