Truck drivers lose case against fleet over Calif. labor laws | I-10 back open

Trucking news and briefs for Monday, Nov. 20, 2023:

Truck drivers lose case seeking more money for Calif. work

A federal court in Oklahoma ruled in favor of a trucking company in a case in which two truckers claimed they were underpaid for work performed in California.

Drivers Matthew Bromlow and Johnny Walters alleged in a lawsuit that D&M Carriers, doing business as Freymiller:

  • Failed to pay minimum wages for all hours worked in California as required by the California Labor Code
  • Made unlawful deductions from wages in violation of California Labor Code
  • Made late payment of drivers’ wages and waiting time penalties under California Labor Code
  • Did not reimburse work-related expenses to which Walters was entitled

Bromlow, a company driver, and Walters, an owner-operator, also claimed the company did not allow them California’s off-duty meal and rest break periods. Because federal hours of service regulations preempt California’s state laws, the court did not address those claims.

[Related: A small fleet v. the Teamsters]

According to court documents, during his five months of employment from October 2016 to March 2017, Bromlow drove just 5.67% of his miles in California. Walters, who worked for the company from July 2018 to January 2019, drove 8.75% of his total miles in California.

The operators asked the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma to determine the reach of California labor laws setting minimum wage rates and timing of payments and prohibiting wage deductions for employees who don’t principally work in California.

The court noted that, as a federal court deciding issues of California law, it “must follow the most recent decisions of the state’s highest court,” and if no such decision exists, “must attempt to predict what the state’s highest court would do.”

Using previous cases decided by the California Supreme Court, the Oklahoma court determined that because Bromlow and Walters did not work for a California-based employer and they did not spend a majority of their work time in California, they had no claims under California law. The case was ultimately dismissed.

[Related: California files petition with FMCSA for waiver for meal/rest breaks]

I-10 reopened in L.A. in just over a week

Just over a week after closing due to a fire underneath an overpass that caused damage to several support pillars, I-10 in Los Angeles officially reopened to traffic Sunday, Nov. 19.

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Caltrans announced Sunday it had reopened the interstate at 6:30 p.m. after it had been closed since Saturday, Nov. 11. The interstate was originally expected to be closed for a number of weeks, with early estimates putting the reopening sometime in December.

Traffic is now flowing on five lanes in each direction between Alameda Street and the East Los Angeles interchange.

“What began as months has turned into days -- before Angelenos hit the road on Monday, we’re opening the 10 back up,” said California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Caltrans said repair work will continue over the coming months, and that travelers using I-10 “should expect some temporary closures on occasional weekends and overnight, along with intermittent lane closures.”

The fire that shut the interstate down began on a site rented by Apex Development, Inc. Caltrans said that two months prior to the fire, it sued Apex, seeking to remove the company from the leased property for failing to pay its rent and subletting the property without authorization. A hearing is set for early 2024 in that lawsuit. Apex was responsible for maintaining the fenced-off site while they continued to assert rights under the lease. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) investigation into the fire -- suspected to be arson -- remains ongoing.

[Related: I-10 shut down: Huge fire underneath overpass prompted L.A. closure]

Small number of severe-duty Peterbilts with Cummins nat-gas engines recalled

Paccar is recalling a small number of severe-duty Peterbilt 520 units equipped with Cummins L9N natural-gas engines.

The engines themselves are subject to a recall from Cummins, as previously reported, because the rear lifting bracket that attaches to the engine cylinder head may be insufficiently secured, which can allow it to detach.

Only nine Peterbilt 520 units are included in the recall, all of which are 2024 model year. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration documents state that a rear lifting bracket that detaches while the engine is being lifted can result in the engine falling or swinging, increasing injury risk.

Dealers will inspect and replace the flanged stud in the rear lifting bracket, as necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed Jan. 7, 2024. Owners can contact Peterbilt customer service at 940-591-4220 with recall number 23PBK. NHTSA’s recall number is 23V-749.

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