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Some carriers misclassify drivers as independent contractors

In Tennessee, the so-called ABC test is utilized for determining whether a worker is an independent contractor or employee, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Every employer needs to know the appropriate classificatio of its workers. When they hire independent contractors, employers are usually able to reduce their expenses and taxes, and avoid liability and compliance with certain federal programs. However, the test for determining whether a worker should be classified as an employee or an independent contractor is not one of mere labelling but rather one that requires an analysis of the actual relationship between the parties, especially the degree of control exercised by the employer, as well as the manner in which services are performed.

In the trucking industry, carriers often employ drivers as independent contractors though the relationship between the parties may be better characterized as employer and employee, according to a report by Trucks.com International. For carriers, whether they purposefully treat employees as independent contractors or do so by mistake, they open themselves up to liability for past wages. But liability for wages is not the only increased risk carriers face.

When carriers control practically every aspect of drivers’ work, from schedules, to maintenance, to routes, to equipment, they are more likely to be functioning in an employer-employee relationship even though their contract with the driver is labeled something like “Independent Contractor Agreement.”

As employers, carriers assume much more risk because they can be vicariously liable for the negligent acts of drivers. Such liability they usually hope to avoid by entering into a personal services contract with an independent contractor. However, when a driver is acting in the course of employment as dictated by the carrier, on a route designated by the carrier, through the use of a vehicle maintained by the carrier, for a purpose determined by the carrier, the driver is probably an employee regardless of the stated relationship. If such a driver causes an accident resulting in damage to person or property, the carrier is more likely to be on the hook for the losses incurred because the driver is more likely to be found an employee not an independent contractor.

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