A recent episode of Overdrive Radio, featuring owner-operator business services firm ATBS’ President Todd Amen’s semi-annual dissection of income and revenue averages, offered an interesting summary of the pressure on the independent contractor model.
2020 on the whole saw owner-operator income make a solid gain, cutting against the best prediction Amen thought he could make at the beginning of 2020. For this year’s dissection, Amen painted a particularly interesting picture of the numbers from last year, given what he likens to a three-to-five-year macroeconomic cycle squeezed into 12 months.
2020’s lackluster beginning turned into an early-pandemic boom in March, the deepest of bottoms in April and May, then roaring back through the rest of the year and continuing to do so today for many.
He also detailed possible headwinds for leased owner-operators and their fleet partners in the Biden administration’s revival of pressure against the independent contractor model for self-employed people in general. Comparing the largest fleets’ responses to the question of their level of worry over the independent contractor classification issue during the Trump years and now under Biden, ATBS found the level had doubled.
It hasn’t taken long at all for the Biden administration to prove that the worries were founded. As reported last week, sitting in the administration’s outline of an infrastructure plan was a full-throated endorsement of the “Protecting the Right to Organize Act” the House has passed, which would nationalize the problematic ABC independent contractor test. The B portion of the test essentially bars independent contractor status from a contractor who is in the same line of work as the company he/she’s contracting to.
Fundamentally, though abuses of the contractor model are real in many industries, including in trucking, owner-ops are owner-ops for a reason. Few want to be company drivers. ATBS presented its leased clientele with a hypothetical question. Just what would they do if faced with removal of the option of leasing to a motor carrier? Very few said they’d go work as company drivers.
The “PRO” Act, as Amen added, is unlikely to pass muster in the Senate, and as the above poll shows – the owner-operator’s here to stay, whatever comes.