A California federal judge rejected the latest effort by trucking groups to block enforcement of Assembly Bill 5, the state law designed to crack down on independent contractor misclassification. The March 15 ruling stated that courts “are not the proper bodies for imposing legislative amendments.”

“Remedying complexities and perceived deficiencies in AB 5 are the kind of work better left to the soap box and the ballot box than to the jury box,” US District Judge Roger Benitez wrote in his decision. “If sufficient political or economic pressure can be brought to bear by Plaintiffs and their supporters, the more onerous provisions of the statute can be amended.”

AB 5, passed in 2019, codified into law the California Supreme Court’s Dynamex decision that put the “ABC” independent contractor classification test in place.

“In effect, the operation of AB 5 deems most, if not all, freight hauling drivers driving in or into California as employees of a freight hauling business,” Benitez wrote.

The judge not only failed to order a new injunction but also tossed out the case, FreightWaves reported. Benitez is the same judge that handed down a New Year’s Eve 2019 preliminary injunction that kept AB 5 out of the state’s trucking sector for several years, law firm Benesch reported in a JD Supra blog post.

That ruling was later reversed on appeal. The judge on March 15 rejected the industry’s latest legal arguments, instead ruling in favor of California’s attorney general and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. As a result, absent an appeal, the trucking industry will remain subject to AB 5 just as it has been ever since the US Supreme Court declined to review the subject in June 2022.

The California Trucking Association and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association filed the lawsuit, with state Attorney General Rob Bonta and the Teamsters as the defendants.

“AB 5 was enacted to address a widespread problem of worker misclassification, including in the trucking industry, and application of AB 5 in this sector serves the important interests of ensuring that employees receive benefits guaranteed by law, including minimum wage, unemployment insurance, sick leave, and others,” Bonta said in a press statement. “This attempt to invalidate the application of AB 5 to the trucking industry will not stand. The California Department of Justice will continue to defend this important law and stand up for the rights of workers to receive the benefits and protections to which they are legally entitled.”

Appeals of last week’s decision in the US District Court for the Southern District of California are possible, according to FreightWaves. However, the legal battle that has gone on for more than four years may prove too big a challenge to proceed.

OOIDA is still reviewing the ruling, a representative told SIA in an email. “OOIDA disagrees with Judge Benitez’s ruling and the reasoning behind it and is exploring all options moving forward — including an appeal,” they stated.