Overdrive Magazine

April 2018

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Business 26 | Overdrive | April 2018 In its next term, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a lawsuit brought by an owner-operator against New Prime Inc., a subsidiary of Prime Inc., that challenges the carrier's requirement that disputes between the carrier and its drivers be handled outside of court via third-party arbitration. The Supreme Court's decision in the case could have industrywide implications, either solidifying arbi- tration requirements of truckers' con- tracts with carriers or undermining them. Dominic Oliveira, a New Prime driver turned owner-operator, alleges that he has the right to file lawsuits and bring his conflicts to court, despite signing a contract with a binding arbitration clause that requires the parties "to arbitrate all workplace disputes … on an individu- al basis," according to Prime's appeal to the Supreme Court. Oliveira sued the company in 2014, claiming he was shorted pay by being misclassi- fied as an owner-operator instead of a company employee. Prime challenged the suit, argu- ing Oliveira's complaints should be handled via arbitration, as stipulated by his contract. The Springfield, Missouri-based fleet says federal law is on its side, claiming the Federal Arbitration Act of 1925 protects the arbitration clauses within its con- tracts. The First Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling last May saying Oliveira did have the right to bring his case to court for resolution, which Prime appealed to the Supreme Court. The high court on Feb. 26 granted the carrier's petition to hear the case. The questions before the Supreme Court will not center on Oliveira's claims of misclassification, but wheth- er he has the legal ability to have his dispute handled in court or whether it should be settled in arbitration, as dictated by his contractor agreement with the carrier. – James Jaillet Arbitration dispute to go before high court Prime says conflicting decisions in similar cases have caused a "split of authority" and that the U.S. Supreme Court needs to resolve the opinions. Attorneys for owner-operator Dominic Oliveira, howev- er, say federal law is clear in exempting transportation workers from arbitration clauses. A White House report reiterates the Trump administration's stance that tolling should be a primary mecha- nism for boosting highway funding. The report also says that the admin- istration doesn't think trucking pays enough in taxes to offset its impacts. The annual Economic Report of the President, written by the White House's Council of Economic Advisers, takes aim at gasoline and diesel taxes that are the primary funding source for the underperform- ing U.S. Highway Trust Fund. "Evidence suggests that heavy trucks in particular do not currently face taxes and charges that are aligned with the negative externalities they generate, which include pavement damage, traffic congestion, accident risk and emissions," the report says. The administration's infrastructure plan would lean on tolls and funding from states and localities – rather than federal spending – to bolster the Highway Trust Fund. President Trump's plan also would repeal the current ban on interstate tolling. – James Jaillet Report questions if truckers pay enough for highways

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