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A federal judge in California has temporarily halted the start date of AB-5, a law that would potentially change how independent truck drivers are classified. The TRO will remain in effect until Jan. 13, the date of a hearing on a plaintiff’s motion to seek a preliminary injunction against the law.

Judge Roger Benitez from the Southern District Court of California on Dec. 31 issued a temporary restraining order against the implementation of California’s Assembly Bill 5. The legislation, which was set to take effect Jan. 1, potentially would reclassify tens of thousands of independent contractors as employees. Trucking industry officials fear that the law would remove opportunities for drivers to own their own businesses and work as independent owner-operators in California.

The Temporary Restraining Order – which pertains exclusively to the trucking industry – was issued in response to a Dec. 24 request from the California Trucking Association seeking a delay in the law’s implementation.

In November, CTA filed a lawsuit challenging AB 5 in which the group argued that many of the drivers it represents want to remain independent contractors, as this permits them the ability to set their own schedules and otherwise profit from owning their own vehicle. The association said enforcing AB 5 would force these drivers to be treated as employees and forfeit those benefits.

CTA argued that the “B” prong of the ABC test is pre-empted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994, which prohibits any state from “enact[ing] or enforc[ing] a law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier – with respect to the transportation of property.”

Judge Benitez said that CTA’s contention warranted further consideration. “Plaintiffs have shown that AB 5’s Prong B is likely pre-empted by the FAAAA because AB 5 effectively mandates that motor carriers treat owner-operators as employees, rather than as the independent contractors that they are,” he wrote.

In his order, Benitez wrote, “The court finds that a temporary restraining order is warranted. At this early stage of the proceedings and within the brief amount of time available, plaintiffs have carried their burden for purposes of emergency relief to show (1) that they are likely to succeed on the merits, (2) likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of relief, (3) that the balance of equities tips in their favor and (4) that their requested relief is in the public interest.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters are the defendants in the case.