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Democrats introduce “Port Drivers’ Bill of Rights Act of 2017”


Two federal bills that are designed to protect port truck drivers will be introduced to the House on Thursday.

Port Truck Drivers’ Bill of Rights Act of 2017

The first bill, the Port Drivers’ Bill of Rights Act of 2017, lays out basic work standards for port truckers, including fair pay, protection under labor laws, and freedom from “exploitative truck lease or rental arrangements,” according to a draft.

This bill will prevent port trucking companies from exploiting their workforce with lease-to-own contracts that force drivers to work around the clock for almost no pay.

“For truck drivers to be treated fairly and paid fairly,” said Grace Napolitano, a bill sponsor, “that’s a no-brainer. We thought [the companies] would do it without legislation, but that hasn’t happened. So we had to put it in writing.”

The bill would create a new task force that would be responsible for auditing port companies to ensure fair treatment of truck drivers. The audits would consist of analyzing leasing contracts in order to identify which companies are exploiting their truck drivers. This legislation would also include provisions to protect port truck drivers from predatory lease-purchase programs.

Clean Ports Act Of 2017

The second bill, the Clean Ports Act of 2017, aims to loosen federal restrictions preventing cities from regulating port trucking companies. Retail companies and their trade groups have spent millions successfully lobbying to stop similar reforms in the past, according to USA TODAY. 

Weston LaBar, president of the Harbor Trucking Association, thinks that the Clean Ports Act needs to ensure fairness to both truck drivers and port companies.

Democrats are disregarding LaBar’s plea because they think that working conditions for port drivers are so bad that federal regulators need to step in.

The reason so many truck drivers have been forced to lease their own trucks is because of California’s clean air initiative that was created 5 years ago: this law banned aging big rigs from the nation’s two largest ports, both in the Los Angeles area. Companies that move nearly half of America’s imports off the docks faced the prospect of buying 16,000 new trucks, according to USA Today.

To avoid incurring such a large cost, many port trucking companies decided to force independent drivers into company-sponsored lease-to-own contracts. According to reports, these contracts ate up a large portion of take-home pay for many port truck drivers. Often after paying for truck expenses, the truck drivers were left with little to nothing.

Democrats hope to present these new initiatives on Thursday as a worker-friendly reform with hopes of gaining bipartisan support.


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