A long State of the Union speech was devoid of direct references to trucking outside of, perhaps, President Trump’s continued talk of a comprehensive infrastructure bill. But what might well be a reference to some of the issues explored in this month’s cover feature about the legal stew out west and in some other quarters around the independent contractor classification of owner-operators made its way into the Democratic Party’s brief response Tuesday night. The televised response was delivered by Stacey Abrams, who lost narrowly in her bid for the Georgia governor’s job this past fall.
At first hearing the phrase in particular watching live Tuesday night, I immediately thought it could be interpreted as such, a reference to lease- and lease-purchase practices at some carriers, particularly among port-centric carriers out west but not exclusive to them. In their worst cases such practices put ostensibly independent drivers in a situation where they “essentially become indentured servants, dependent on the carrier to make increasingly unaffordable lease payments,” as I wrote in the story that hit the site on Monday. “In many cases, they never fully take ownership of the truck. In the worst cases, they end up making little to no income.”
Looked at a little more closely, though, Abrams’ particular reference to trucking came in the context of the tax reform bill, which axed the per-diem deduction for employee drivers — owner-ops still can benefit from the per-diem deduction as a business expense. Here’s the context for the particular reference I’m talking about, and the reference itself:
The Republican tax bill rigged the system against working people. Rather than bringing back jobs, plants are closing, layoffs are looming, and wages struggle to keep pace with the actual cost of living.
We owe more to the millions of everyday folks who keep our economy running, like truck drivers forced to buy their own rigs, farmers caught in a trade war, small business owners in search of capital, and domestic workers serving without labor protections — women and men who could thrive if they only had the support and freedom to do so.
Tone-deaf to the priorities of current and aspirational truck owners, no doubt, however you want to interpret it. It is no secret, at least, that the tax reform legislation did seem likely to put a slightly larger tax bill on working company drivers with the per-diem change (what have you seen, company drivers in the audience?), something OOIDA has urged be reversed.
Force a guy to buy a truck, though, it most certainly did not.
Read more about both leasing and per-diem issues via the following links: