Supreme Court Turns Aside J.B. Hunt on Truck Driver Suit
Date: Monday, June 11, 2018
Source: Wall Street Journal
A lawsuit over California’s ability to set work and wage rules for truck drivers that go beyond federal trucking regulations is set to go to trial 11 years after the case began.
The U.S. Supreme Court this week turned aside J.B. Hunt Transport Inc.’s appeal of a court ruling allowing the class-action suit to move ahead, leaving in place the lower court’s decision that federal transportation law doesn’t preempt California from setting its own rules on how truck drivers are paid and when they must take meal and rest breaks.
The high court without comment said it would not review a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that business and trucking-industry groups said may expand the ability of states to impose their own rules on some parts of trucking operations that involve drivers.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and groups representing trucking companies and shipping customers had filed briefs calling on the Supreme Court to overturn the California ruling, which came in a suit that was first filed in 2007.
“We finally get to go to trial on behalf of California drivers,” said Stanley Saltzman, a Los Angeles-based attorney with Marlin & Saltzman, the law firm that launched the case, called Ortega et al v. J.B. Hunt Transport Inc. Mr. Saltzman said a trial was scheduled to begin Sept. 25 before a federal judge in Los Angeles.
The drivers sued over the claim by Lowell, Ark.-based J.B. Hunt, one of the largest trucking and logistics companies in the U.S., that it doesn’t have to meet a state rule saying that trucking companies must comply with California’s minimum wage law and a separate law calling for mandatory reset and meal breaks. J.B. Hunt, along with industry groups, said the state rules are preempted by a 1994 federal law that bars states from setting laws affecting the price, routes and services of trucking companies.
J.B. Hunt said in its petition to have the Supreme Court review the Ninth Circuit ruling that the state rules would make the trucker’s operations less efficient and more costly. It would push the trucker toward an hourly wage rather than the “activity-based pay system” widely used in trucking, the carrier wrote, and force drivers off delivery routes to seek food or rest areas.
J.B. Hunt and its attorneys did not return phone calls for comment.
Prasad Sharma, a transportation attorney with the law firm Scopelitis, Garvin, called the court’s decision “a loss for the free market and a loss for shippers, and probably a loss to some extent even for drivers who find California’s imposition of its policy judgments on interstate commerce problematic and believe it would hurt their profession.”
Attorneys for the drivers said constitutional precedents establishing that federal rules supersede state regulations in matters involving interstate commerce and transportation don’t apply in the California case because the drivers in the case work in operations that are almost entirely within the state.
Mr. Saltzman said the drivers work in so-called dedicated business, where retailers and other companies hire trucking companies to work exclusively for their own operations, and intermodal transport, where trucks haul loads between distribution centers and freight rail terminals.
Click here to read the entire article from the original source
Have the News Delivered to you
Like what you see here? Why not let us send it directly to you?
Sign up to receive our Weekly Industry Newsletter, a compilation of all news articles that matter to you and your business.