Commercial Trucking Laws and Regulations Changing in 2021
In 2021, the United States Department of Labor clarified truck drivers’ employment classification as either an independent contractor or a direct employee of a trucking company, and the minimum allowable liability insurance coverage a tractor-trailer driver is required to carry may be raised above the current $750,000 minimum. The Biden administration’s “green” regulations require migration to the use of alternative electric or natural gas to fuel trucks rather than diesel gasoline. New greenhouse gas emissions regulations in 2021 require trucking companies to upgrade their engines to decrease reliance on fossil fuels.
Californians Vote for Independent Contractors
The state of California voted in favor of truck drivers’ right to retain independent contractor status rather than be classified as an employee of the company that pays them. Assembly Bill 5, passed in 2019, forced companies to make independent contractors employees and give them medical benefits and paid sick leave. In 2018, the California Supreme Court established rules to determine when a driver is an employee, or an owner-operator is an independent contractor. Proposition 22 allows shipping firms that stopped hiring independent drivers to accept contracts without fear of legal repercussions.
California AB 5 Employment Status
An ABC test to determine if an individual is an independent worker or an employee of a corporation became effective January 1, 2020. Full-time employees are entitled to unemployment compensation. Independent contractors are not. Under the 2020 law, a driver is an employee unless all three of the following conditions are met.
- The truck driver is not controlled or under the direction of the entity paying for the driver’s service at any time during his or her performance of the service.
- No part of the work is performed on the shipper’s premises or a specific jobsite.
- The driver is established as a sole proprietor or incorporated to do business shipping or delivering goods for customers even if the shipper can be held responsible for his or her driving while he or she is in possession of their goods.
In short, a truck driver is an employee with the employer directly liable for his or her driving unless he or she can prove he or she is independently incorporated or engages in shipping under a trade name. Californians voted for a truck drivers’ right to drive for a shipper as an independent contractor.
Assembly Bill 5 was designed to protect workers and the general public from employers that evade taxes, promote unfair competition, and exploit workers and commercial trucking accident victims.
Single Engagement Exemption
A driver can independently drive once for a shipper or another type of employer without being classified as an employee. Similarly, a commercial trucker may perform a series of tasks that constitute a short-duration fixed-rate contract with the driver in control of the work and free to negotiate his or her rate of pay, provided this person holds a contract and provides all the tools and equipment necessary to perform the task.
2021 Greenhouse Emissions Regulations
Progressively more stringent greenhouse gas controls demand that no more than 460 grams of CO2 emissions may be released per brake horsepower-hour. Increased fuel efficiency and lightweight side skirts reduce emissions and save shippers money. Goals for model years 2021-2027 for semitrucks, buses, work trucks, large pickups and vans are to reduce fuel costs by $170 billion and oil consumption by 2 billion barrels by 2027.
Volvo Trucks North America
Volvo Trucks North America’s D13 Turbo Compound (D13TC) engine, standard in all its sleeper trucks, comes in three modes. Its patented wave pistons with ridged surfaces burn fuel differentially depending on the weight and distribution of the load, the truck’s speed and the engine’s revolutions per minute.
Mack Trucks MP7 and MP8 engines were released in 2021 with an enhanced engine control unit (ECU) processor that uses three percent less fuel than its 2020 MP8HE engines and 9.5 percent less than older Mack MP8 engines. The new ECU processor uses its memory and computes torque and engine performance dynamics on varied terrain and sends advanced diagnostic messages.
Commercial Truck Driver’s Minimum Liability Insurance
Congress may increase the required $750,000 minimum carriers’ liability coverage. The minimum financial responsibility or liability insurance an interstate motor carrier is required to carry has not increased with inflation. Financial responsibility requirements cover the carrier in case of an accident and ensure that the commercial truck driver will operate his or her motor vehicle safely in accordance with the laws in each state through which he or she drives.
2020 Financial Responsibility Requirements
Federal Motor Carrier Regulations require interstate commercial truck drivers to carry a minimum of $750,000 to replace their cargo or freight if it is damaged in transit to its destination or $1 million if the truck driver carries oil, gasoline or petroleum. Hazardous material drivers must be insured for at least $5 million and are strictly liable for any accident involving their dangerous gases or liquid.
In case an accident occurs, a tractor-trailer driver is required to carry a minimum of $1.5 million to $5 million in liability insurance depending on the size and nature of the load. The minimum financial responsibility for drivers who carry passengers is $5 million.
Commercial Truck Accidents
Technological changes save lives. Electronic stability control saved 7,000 lives from 2011 to 2015, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is diligently studying crash avoidance and mitigation technology because trucks with a gross weight of more than 10,000 pounds take 4,000 lives annually in the United States. Police officers record more than 400,000 heavy truck accidents annually in the United States. The latest technology in 2021 for truck drivers includes
- Vehicle-to-vehicle communications
- Active braking technologies
- Collision warning systems
- Heavy truck accident research
Collisions with tractor-trailer trucks are fatal in 74% of all cases. Catastrophic injuries result in 81% of all collisions with large trucks. Unfortunately, 30% of the fatal crashes with these commercial vehicles occur in construction areas, areas where a lot of large trucks work together to get a job done. A work or construction zone is also where a driver’s attention wanders while sitting in stopped or slow traffic, possibly even checking his or her emails and text messages. Accidents in work zones have increased 28% annually in the United States.
Trucking Accident Lawyer
Increasing the amount of liability insurance a truck driver carries will not reduce the severity of your injuries or bring a loved one back, but it does increase the amount of compensation a trucking accident lawyer can recover for you through a wrongful death or personal injury lawsuit. Clarification of the truck driver’s status as an employee also means that his or her employer is also directly responsible for his or her actions. The truck driver’s employer may have to pay for your medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Call RAM Law at our New Brunswick, New Jersey, office at (732) 394-1549 for a free confidential initial consultation to discuss a commercial truck accident involving you or a loved one.