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Posts Tagged ‘#smartphones’

A Bumpy Road Ahead: More Uber Drivers to Join Misclassification Class Action Lawsuit

Posted on: December 11th, 2015

By: Allison Shrallow

Living in San Francisco, the mecca of all things tech, can make a person very accustomed to getting everything on-demand. Need groceries? Use Instacart.  Want someone to clean your home? Try Handy.  Looking for a date?  Consider Bumble. The push-button economy has become so commonplace that it is difficult to imagine our lives without it.

Oh but there was a time. For most long-term San Franciscans, the prospect of attempting to hail a cab in 2009 remains in the forefront of their minds.   And then one day a miracle happened.  A little company by the name of Uber came to be.  The idea was simple enough.  Need a ride?  Push a button.  At first Uber only offered Town Cars and was seen as more of a luxury.  However, in an effort to capture more customers, Uber began offering UberX, marketed as a less expensive, more efficient option than taxis.

Uber classified their drivers as independent contractors, granting drivers with the personal flexibility to work when and for as long as they wanted.   As independent contractors, Uber was not required to pay for their drivers’ health insurance, social security, paid sick days or overtime.  Further, Uber was under no obligation to reimburse its employees for mileage and other employment-related expenses.  Uber’s current business model allows drivers to pocket 80% of the fare with the remaining 20% going to the company.   As a result of having very little overhead and expenses, customers receive low fares.

This might all change as a result of a lawsuit filed by three drivers in 2013 alleging Uber misclassified them as independent contractors rather than employees. These drivers sought to represent California Uber drivers in a class action lawsuit against the ride-hailing service.  On September 1, 2015, a court certified a class of all California drivers who have driven for Uber since August 2009 to June 2014, and who did not sign an arbitration agreement.   However, on December 9, 2015, the court expanded the class of drivers to include those who signed Uber’s 2014 and 2015 arbitration agreements, concluding the agreements contained a non-severable Private Attorney General Act waiver that rendered the entire arbitration agreement unenforceable on public policy grounds.  As a result, the majority of Uber’s 160,000 California drivers will be allowed to join the class action lawsuit.  Uber has stated it will file an immediate appeal.

The case is scheduled to go to trial in June of next year. If the court finds Uber misclassified its drivers as independent contractors, Uber could be liable for vehicle-related and phone expenses for all drivers who joined the lawsuit, and,  going forward,  it would be required to pay significant sums on wages, insurance, and reimbursable expenses for its drivers.   It would also most likely create a ripple effect throughout the entire push-button economy, prompting workers at other on-demand app companies to file suit, a move that most likely would require other companies to change their business model to account for the higher cost of doing business.  This in turn would almost certainly result in customers having to pay more for services to which they have grown accustomed and workers losing the flexibility that attracted them to these companies in the first place.

The Pros and Cons of Emerging Trucking Apps

Posted on: September 30th, 2015

By: Matt Grattan and Kevin Stone

Emerging smart phone apps promise to transform the trucking business by offering trucking companies and truck drivers opportunities to maximize capacity, minimize time spent at weigh stations and inspection sites, and improve navigational assistance.  Cargomatic—the Uber of trucking apps—allows local businesses to find trucks in their area that have free space and track delivery.  The benefits are obvious for small businesses that don’t have the time and effort to find trucks and for trucking companies that are seeking to fill empty space in their trucks.  Trucker Path—a Yelp for the trucking world—is an interactive app that provides up-to-date information to help truckers find truck stops, rest areas, parking, and more.  Users provide information and ratings for each location, allowing drivers to determine whether certain stops are open or closed, for example.

On the one hand, these apps promise to improve the day-to-day lives of truckers by offering time-saving services.  On the other hand, as with all mobile apps, there are safety/legal concerns as well.   The main concern for Ted Scott, the director of engineering for the American Trucking Association (“ATA”), is the potential for distracted driving, an issue that has plagued the trucking industry for years. A 2007 Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration study revealed that in 81% of safety critical events (crashes, near-crashes, unintentional lane deviations) involving commercial motor vehicles, driver distraction was a contributing factor. Because most of the mobile apps will need to be on while a trucker is driving, the ATA is justifiably concerned about drivers taking their eyes off the road. Even though several laws and regulations addressing distracted driving currently exist, trucking companies and regulators have found it increasingly difficult to enforce them.

An additional benefit the trucking industry anticipates from these mobile apps—an increase in the number of truck drivers—may also exacerbate another existing problem: a shortage of parking for truck drivers. According to a study by the Federal Highway Administration, 75% of truck drivers and 66% of logistics personnel reported regularly having problems finding safe parking when it was time to rest. That number increases to 90% for truck drivers looking for available parking at night. The lack of parking may force truckers to exceed the maximum allowable amount of driving hours while searching for parking and even park (often illegally) on road shoulders, a dangerous practice that law enforcement and safety regulators cite as a critical issue facing the trucking industry. Trucker Path, however, could help with this, as it provides up-to-date information to help truckers find parking.

The potential problems associated with these mobile apps are nothing new—trucking companies have tried for years to prevent drivers from using cell phones and to provide better routes to improve a driver’s chances to find parking. But to benefit from these new technologies, while at the same time keeping safety as a top priority, trucking companies may need to look into utilizing voice recognition technology or preventing drivers from using these apps while their vehicles are traveling over a predetermined speed.

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Our attorneys provide you with a single point of contact for an immediate determination of the appropriate response; where warranted, they will dispatch ERT members to an accident location to:

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Marc Bardack – Transportation Team Chair
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Abby Vineyard – Associate
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