NJ governor vetoes owner-operator bill

Updated Sep 12, 2013

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has used his strongest veto power against legislation that would have barred owner-operators from the drayage and parcel delivery service.

Christie issued an absolute veto against the Truck Operator Independent Contractor Act. This veto would require a two-third vote in each chamber to be overridden, or 27 votes from the Senate and 54 from the Assembly. The pocket veto, the only weightier option, could not be used because it is only applicable to bills passed within the last 10 days of the Legislature.

Christie said he was “especially troubled” the bill carried criminal penalties for companies that misclassify drivers, even when the misclassification was not willful. “Given that the inquiry as to whether a truck driver is an independent contractor or an employee is necessarily fact-sensitive, a prudent trucking business seeking to use the independent contractor model may choose to leave the state rather than risk criminal culpability,” he said.

Overseas shippers would likely deliver goods to ports in other states if carriers leave the state, Christie added.

Deputy Speaker John Wisniewski sponsored the legislation that the Senate passed 21-17 May 30, following a 43-30 Assembly approval. Christie’s veto allows unethical companies “to continue to skirt the law,” the Democrat assemblyman said.

The Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association, American Trucking Associations, New Jersey Motor Truck Association and New York Motor Truck Association were against the legislation.

The measure also was opposed by the Gateway Regional Chamber of Commerce, which represents North and Central New Jersey and the New York Metro area businesses. “In truth, the act is an attempt to force FedEx to stop using independent contractors here in New Jersey, as it now does for ground delivery, instead hire these or other drivers as employees and allow the Teamsters to attempt to unionize the resultant workforce,” the chamber stated.