Revisions to Ohio Law Provide Clarity and Consistency to Motor Carriers as to Test for Independent Contractors

Workers' Compensation & OSHA

Effective July 3, 2019, the Ohio General Assembly has enacted statutory changes to the definition of “employment” to provide clarity to motor carriers and those in the trucking industry as to how administrative agencies, including the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC), will view independent contractor drivers. H.B. 62, Ohio’s transportation budget bill which was signed into law by Governor DeWine on April 3, 2019 (the Bill), was supported by the Ohio Trucking Association in order to address the issue that different common law tests were used by the various Ohio agencies with a hand in regulating the trucking industry.

Prior to the enactment of H.B. 62, each agency used a slightly different test as developed under common law. For workers’ compensation, agencies and courts looked to whether the employer reserved the right to control the manner and means of performing the work. In unemployment compensation matters (as well as with construction industry-specific cases before the BWC), a 20-factor control test was utilized. Yet another test for purposes of minimum wage regulations required one to examine the economic realities in the nature of the relationship between the worker and the employer. The Bill now replaces all these tests and should provide clarity and consistent results for motor carriers operating in Ohio.

The Bill now exempts from coverage – under Ohio workers’ compensation law, unemployment compensation law, overtime law, and minimum wage law – individuals who meet all seven factors of the new statutory test to govern the definition of independent contractor across the agencies. Under the revised R.C. 4123.01 defining “employment” for the purposes of Ohio workers’ compensation (similarly with R.C. 4111.03, et seq. for minimum wage/overtime and R.C. 4141.01 for unemployment), an individual who operates a motor vehicle in the performance of services for or on behalf of a motor carrier will be designated as an independent contractor (and therefore exempt from coverage) if all these seven factors apply:

  1. The person owns the vehicle or vessel that is used in performing the services for or on behalf of the carrier, or the person leases the vehicle or vessel under a bona fide lease agreement that is not a temporary replacement lease agreement. For purposes of this division, a bona fide lease agreement does not include an agreement between the person and the motor carrier transporting property for which, or on whose behalf, the person provides services.

  2. The person is responsible for supplying the necessary personal services to operate the vehicle or vessel used to provide the service.

  3. The compensation paid to the person is based on factors related to work performed, including on a mileage-based rate or a percentage of any schedule of rates, and not solely on the basis of the hours or time expended.

  4. The person substantially controls the means and manner of performing the services, in conformance with regulatory requirements and specifications of the shipper.

  5. The person enters into a written contract with the carrier for whom the person is performing the services that describes the relationship between the person and the carrier to be that of an independent contractor and not that of an employee.

  6. The person is responsible for substantially all of the principal operating costs of the vehicle or vessel and equipment used to provide the services, including maintenance, fuel, repairs, supplies, vehicle or vessel insurance, and personal expenses, except that the person may be paid by the carrier the carrier's fuel surcharge and incidental costs, including tolls, permits, and lumper fees.

  7. The person is responsible for any economic loss or economic gain from the arrangement with the carrier.

See R.C. 4123.01(A)(1)(d). This industry-specific test is now a comprehensive way for motor carriers to properly interpret the nature of the relationship with independent contractors, as well as for Ohio administrative agencies to determine and adjudicate coverage disputes should they arise.

While some of the required factors which must apply to be deemed an independent contractor are common to tests in other jurisdictions – mileage-based compensation, supplying personal services, responsibility for operating costs – this new test expressly requires a bona fide, written agreement to be in place that specifies that the relationship is one of independent contractor. Such agreement must not be directly between the contractor and the motor carrier transporting company for whom the contractor provides the services.

Pursuant to the revised statute, administrative rules will be developed in the near future for implementation of the test for each agency. In the meantime, those in the trucking industry should review both their current written independent contractor agreements and the in-practice relationship with contractors to remain or come into compliance with Ohio’s clarified standard.


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