On January 1, 2020, California’s new independent contractor statute, known as AB 5, went into effect. The law codifies the use of an “ABC” test to determine if an individual may be classified as an independent contractor.

The hastily passed and controversial statute has been challenged by a number of groups as being unconstitutional and/or preempted by federal law, including ride-share and delivery companies and freelance writers.

Just hours before AB 5 went into effect, a California federal court in San Diego enjoined enforcement of the statute as to some individuals – approximately 70,000 independent truckers, many of whom have invested substantial sums of money to purchase their own trucks and to work as “owner-operators.”

In the lawsuit, the California Trucking Association (“CTA”) has alleged that the “ABC” test set forth in AB 5 is preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (“FAAAA”).

The CTA asserts that the FAAA preempts the “B” prong because it will effectively operate as a de facto prohibition on motor carriers contracting with independent owner-operators, and will therefore directly impact motor carriers’ services, routes, and prices, in contravention of the FAAA’s preemption provision.

The CTA further contends that the test imposes an impermissible burden on interstate commerce, in violation of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The CTA asserts that the test would deprive motor carriers of the right to engage in the interstate transportation of property free of unreasonable burdens, as motor carriers would be precluded from contracting with a single owner-operator to transport an interstate load that originates or terminates in California. Instead, motor carriers would be forced to hire an employee driver to perform the leg of the trip that takes place in California.