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Are Your Drivers Independent Contractors or Employees?

Many companies in the semi-truck industry classify their drivers as independent contractors, particularly when the drivers are owner-drivers who have their own truck. Recently, though, these independent contractor designations in the trucking industry have become more precarious than in past years.

In an early 2017 report, wrote about two states where truck drivers recently won the right to be reclassified as employees if their current positions don't change:

  • Arizona. In early January, a federal judge in Arizona determined that Swift Transportation Co. misclassified some of their truck drivers as independent contractors, for determining the drivers' schedules, driving routes, and equipment. The company will most likely need to pay millions in lost wages to these drivers.
  • California. San Diego Federal Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo dismissed CTA's lawsuit looking to designate all truck driver owner-operators as independent contractors, rather than employees. For these drivers to be independent contractors, going forward these positions must meet certain requirements. Additionally, California truck drivers have a history over the past several years of successfully suing companies for employee reclassification.


Companies are still welcome to classify their semi-truck drivers as independent contractors, however companies need to be careful and ensure they carefully follow rules. In order to keep your owner-drivers as independent contractors, make sure to follow the IRS guidelines, such as:

  • Make sure your independent contractors provide their own truck and vehicular maintenance.
  • You can give your independent truck drivers assignments and deadlines, however they get to choose how and when to do the assignment.
  • Your independent contractor drivers must provide their own training and pay for all on the road expenses (they can deduct them on their tax returns).


Are you uncertain about how to work with your owner-drivers in your business, or feel you've been unfairly classified by your employer? Contact us for general advice on working in the trucking industry, and consult an employment lawyer for specific legal help.

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