Will Federal Legislation Solve the Port Problem?
The trucking industry has many challenges to contend with, but some drivers found issues they never would’ve imagined.
The Los Angeles and Long Beach ports are a bustling area for trucking, with a large amount of America’s freight arriving to these locations. Hopeful owner-operators rush to the area in hopes of landing extra work. However, some companies would rather exploit these individuals than utilize their talents.
Months of protests drew attention to the startling issue of “trapped” drivers, with some workers claiming they’d been lured into a scheme. The truckers claim they’d been tricked into work arrangements that made them little more than indentured servants.
Complaints allege that carriers were incorrectly classifying workers as independent contractors while sticking them with the same responsibilities as hourly employees. But by sticking drivers with the cost of their own truck leases, they created a situation where the drivers had to work 12 and 14 hours a day just to come out ahead.
Sadly, for some drivers, coming out ahead meant making only pennies per day. A massive controversy gave way to an investigation, and it was discovered that retail giants were fueling the vicious cycle by purchasing cheap labor from port carriers.
Lawmakers recently introduced two new federal bills aimed at stopping this exploitation and creating a fairer work arrangement for independent drivers in the area. The Port Drivers’ Bill of Rights Act of 2017 puts forth work standards for port truckers. This includes things like fair pay, labor-law protections, and freedom from constricting lease-to-own agreements.
Measures will also be put into place to investigate companies that are taking advantage of workers in this manner. After California’s clean-air initiative was put in place five years ago, carriers faced a serious lack of drivers. Many believe this is what drove them to lean heavily on independent drivers, and set the stage for the unfair conditions workers found themselves in.
The second bill, The Clean Ports Act of 2017, aims to make it easier for cities to regulate port trucking companies by rolling back certain federal regulations. These bills may be the only hope port truckers have for avoiding exploitation as they try to find steady work in the area.