Press Release

Trucking Industry Scores Significant Win Protecting the Rights of Owner-Operators and Motor Carriers While Enhancing Safety for Everyone in West Virginia

Mar 12, 2021

Truckers call legislation an important precedent for other states to follow

Arlington, VA -- The trucking industry is cheering a law passed by the West Virginia legislature today, calling the legislation a significant victory in its ongoing, multi-year campaign to protect the rights of independent contractors to earn a living and stop lawsuit abuse from the plaintiffs bar. Backed by the West Virginia Trucking Association and its national counterpart, American Trucking Associations, the bill now heads to Governor Jim Justice to be signed into law. 

Senate Bill 272 broadly protects the owner-operator model—a critical component of trucking—by establishing a clear, bright-line test for what constitutes an independent contractor under state law. Importantly, it also specifically enables motor carriers to require safety improvements of their ICs—whether that be a device, equipment, software, training, practices, policies or procedures—without being held liable as the independent contractor’s employer. Without this carve out, plaintiffs attorneys can use a motor carrier’s requirement of safety standards among its independent contractors as evidence of control and a basis for predatory litigation. This in turn creates a disincentive for motor carriers to provide their contracted owner-operators with improved safety training or equipment.

“The trucking industry literally keeps our economy moving, employing 38,000 West Virginians across our state,” said WVTA President Traci Nelson. “With this legislation, our lawmakers have put down a marker: trial lawyers can’t keep using the civil justice system to line their own pockets at the expense of middle-class jobs, small businesses and highway safety. Other states across the nation would be wise to follow the solid example set by our legislature today.” 

“This was a multi-year effort led by the West Virginia Trucking Association and shows the power of our national federation working together,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “State lawmakers across the country are now waking up to the fact that the perversion of wage and hour classification lawsuits into a profit center for trial lawyers hurts a state’s business climate, kills good-paying jobs and raises the cost of living for everyone while also inhibiting safety improvements.”