The Big Rig Overhaul

The Big Rig Overhaul,” a report released in February, exposes an illegal business model that pervades the U.S. port trucking industry—misclassification of drivers as “independent contractors.” This industry-wide scam has transformed once good, middle-class union jobs into “sweatshops on wheels,” whereby so-called “independent” drivers are victims of massive wage theft and systematically denied bedrock labor protections and workplace benefits.

According to the report, released by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy(LAANE), and Change to Win Strategic Organizing Center (CtW), more than 75,000 U.S. port truck drivers haul goods.

The research presented in the report confirms with startling clarity that the “dire working conditions” of port truck drivers are directly related to their misclassification as “independent contractors.” The authors conservatively estimate that misclassified drivers are victims of wage theft “amounting to $5,072 per driver per month,” concluding that “total quantifiable costs of misclassification nationally—tax losses plus wage and hour violations—run to $1.4 billion annually with non-quantified costs likely exceeding the figure significantly.”

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters’ Port Division has been leading the fight to stop the war on America’s port truck drivers. In California alone, the Teamsters have helped more than 100 drivers file individual claims for wage theft with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, and supported misclassified drivers who engaged in an historic unfair labor practice strike in November 2013.

“Port trucking companies that misclassify their drivers are facing huge liabilities for their illegal schemes and are desperate to reduce their exposure,” said Fred Potter, International Vice President and Director of the Port Division. “In desperation, they are harassing, intimidating and even firing drivers who have filed claims with the government. The industry will be held accountable; the days of a lawless industry are over. We look forward to the day when the port trucking companies that misclassify their drivers modernize their business practices to comply with local, state and federal laws and respect the rights of their employees.”

“The Big Rig Overhaul” blows the lid off the port trucking industry-wide scam that amounts to billions of dollars in stolen back wages and lost tax revenue. As a result of the misclassification scam, port trucking companies are currently liable for an estimated $850 million in stolen wages per year in California alone. Nationally, the total cost of lost tax revenue, compounded with violations of wage and hour laws, soars to $1.4 billion annually.

The report calls for the passage of legislation that will, in part, remedy legal conditions of employee misclassification and the resulting toll on working people in America.

The report details the legal and economic ramifications of misclassification in port trucking, but profiles working port truck drivers, taking a closer look at the impact on hardworking families.

“We work long hours for these companies and we put our life on the line for low pay while they are accumulating millions in profits,” said Daniel Linares, a misclassified port truck driver working in California. “I’m tired of the injustice of the industry. We are the future homeless because we get nothing for retirement. They are getting their money and leaving us behind.”

To read the full report, visit www.NELP.org.