Defending Drivers’ Right to Choose Independence

The Grawe Gazette – General Counsel

Defending Drivers’ Right to Choose Independence

By Doug Grawe, The Grawe Group, LLC, February 2021

It is well-known in the industry virtually every trucking company is looking for more drivers today. Drivers can choose from thousands of employee driver and independent owner operator opportunities. Despite those options, opponents of the industry have railed against the independent owner operator model for years. There had been positive momentum in recent years to defend drivers’ right to choose independence or choose employment, but that momentum has stalled in recent weeks.

We can reasonably believe the federal government will be wading back in on the IC issue, restricting drivers’ freedom to choose. Now is a good time to revisit your IC program and beef up its strength, so your drivers keep their freedom to choose.

Evaluate your IC program with the typical attack against ICs in mind:

  • The IC cannot use the truck to haul for others;
  • The IC’s financial success just comes down to you and running more miles;
  • Your trucking company and your equipment leasing company are just one company;
  • The IC does not have any freedom; and
  • The IC has no real control over the truck

Strengthen your defenses to the typical attack:

  • Make sure the IC can use the truck to work with others within federal law limitations that require the carrier to restrict an IC from using the truck with others except in certain circumstances.
  • Make sure the IC can make decisions that will impact their profitability (e.g., fueling strategy, equipment financing options, equipment maintenance and settings options, adding multiple trucks and drivers, etc.)
  • Make sure your equipment financing operations are separate from your trucking operations (e.g., do not let the cancellation of one contract automatically cancel another, separate the decision making of each business, train your team on the different purposes, rules, and processes of each business, make sure each business tries to stand on its own, etc.)
  • Limit controls whenever possible and give ICs freedom to choose whenever possible (e.g., evaluate every policy/rule/requirement that applies to ICs and consider whether you can achieve the desired result through an avenue that still gives the IC freedom of choice and without requiring a certain method.) 

Protecting drivers’ right to choose independence or employment takes constant attention to detail, and a commitment to walking and talking the difference between the two. As the federal government wades back in on the IC issue consider the attack recipe against ICs and strengthen your IC program’s freedoms from the beginning of your relationship with the driver through the end of the relationship.