Yippee Ki Yay…and Then There is CARB

By Susan Jones

Howdy folks, I’m having a hard time sitting down to the computer to start this article as my head, heart, and soul are still in Parkfield near Paso Robles, CA, on a horse, on a 20,000 acre cattle ranch, high up in the hills.

The drought has impacted our whole state and it is having a huge effect on not only the grazing of the cattle there, but on our whole industry as well. Water trucks will not be hooking up to the local fire hydrant this year but will have to travel to sources of recycled water. Hmmmm… will this qualify as emergency miles and not be added onto the mileage that trucks report to CARB?

I know it may sound surprising, but not all association activities are focused solely on CARB. On March 18th Betty and I attended a meeting in downtown San Francisco to communicate our message and concerns to the Classification and Rating Committee members of the WCIRB’s concerning proposed changes to the Uniform Statistical Reporting Plan. These are the guys that tell the Workers’ Compensation insurance companies the rules. We had serious concern with language coming out of that committee that appeared to all of us as an attempt to reclassify all owner-operators to require them to have workers’ compensation insurance.
We did not get any language changes as hoped for, but are expecting to be given “written guidelines” for establishing the definitions in question related to what are considered “Drivers” for workers compensation purposes and do not effect or are applicable to bona fide independent contractor truck drivers, even when they provide a vehicle and pay for its expenses.

At this meeting I explained what a true owner-operator does, how they have the freedom to choose when and for whom they will work, with their own operating authority. They all nodded their heads in agreement and the head attorney said it is up to DIR to determine who is an employee; they do not make this decision. They felt that by changing the wording there could be “unintended consequences.”

They did agree to compose guidelines that will be furnished to us for distribution to our membership outlining what constitutes a “true” owner-operator which could be furnished to anyone (including auditors) who are unsure of this.

CARB Proposed Amendments

Just when I thought I could write an article about all the other great things our association does for its members, I got sucked back in to the CARB whirlpool. Our members are expressing mixed emotions over the proposed changes to the Truck and Bus rule. Right when many thought that they were done with this and put their businesses on a direction to comply, CARB threw a curve ball at us.

There are proposed changes that could benefit many truckers struggling to comply, especially the construction, agriculture and log truck guys in the clean air counties. They were in a real pickle by not being able to get grants because the grant funding rules exclude them. It’s always been lunacy to require truckers living and working in areas of the state without air quality issues to meet the same requirements as those who live and work in supposedly non-attainment areas. Talk about stupid “one-size-fits-all” mandates.

For those who did upgrade to meet the requirements, there is a strong sentiment that the proposed amendments make a mockery of their efforts and reward “non-compliance.” It is certainly a valid point-of-view since they require higher rates to pay for upgraded equipment. However, there is a big difference between outright “non-compliance” and using one of the existing extensions/exemptions. Many of our members have slotted equipment into the Low-Mileage Construction Truck extension which allows a one-truck operator until January 1, 2016 to operate their truck. They are still out working and legitimately competing with those who upgraded, but it is unfair to characterize them as “non-compliant.”

It is important for everyone to remember that the membership – even those who have now complied with CARB’s rules, did approve the association suing CARB over the legality of their rule. That litigation is still active and even though much time has passed, we and our lawyers still feel confident that our legal arguments will eventually prevail in spite of the Ninth Circuit foot-dragging.

For the many who are angry – on both sides of the fence – remember, this is entirely of CARB’s making. Imagine how angry the green people will be when our litigation is successful.