Last month, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dealt a setback to proposed new environmental rules for the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The rules, among other things, prohibit independent contractor truck drivers picking up from/delivering goods to the Port of Los Angeles; rather, the rules require the drivers to be employees of regulated trucking companies.
The lofty theory behind the rules is that companies rather than individuals are in a better position to purchase new, clean-fuel burning trucks. Put less charitably, the rules are a power-grab by the Teamsters union to attempt to make all drivers in and out of the Port become unionized employees (this employee provision of the rules was enthusiastically promoted by the Teamsters and by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor).
For the three-judge Ninth Circuit panel, however, the employee provision of the rules violates federal law prohibiting local governments with regulating motor vehicles’ service and pricing. The judges ordered the federal trial court judge involved in the case (Christina Snyder) to approve the American Trucking Association’s request for an injunction against the employee provision pending a full trial on the merits of the case. The panel, in its opinion, stated that the Trucking Association was likely to prevail in such a trial.
This ruling is remarkable, coming from a panel of the Ninth Circuit (the most liberal Circuit in the country) and rebuking anti-business regulations in California (one of the most liberal States in the country). Of course, some would argue that this pro-business ruling is, in the great scheme of things, like throwing grains of sand against the tide.