Truckers Lane: What Happened to the Diesel Shortage? Plus Updates on California’s AB5 Law

By Robin Peterson

Are We at Risk of Running out of Diesel Fuel?

Back in November, the buzz around trucking was that the stockpile of diesel fuel was dangerously low with only a 25-day supply. This was concerning to me, so I looked around for signs of the fuel shortage.

Here’s what I found…  I saw a few videos saying there were diesel shortages at truck stops, but these videos didn’t give any locations and didn’t name any truck stops. I chalked them up to YouTube click-bait. On Twitter, I saw tweets that showed a sign that read, “Allentown Plaza – No Diesel”. I looked at the comments below the tweets and found drivers saying that these signs were up last year during a road construction project. Apparently, someone had taken an old photo and made it into a viral tweet, scaring people that the Allentown pumps had dried up. I even saw a MAGA politician retweet this old photo, believing it to be current evidence of the diesel shortfall.

What I didn’t find was any truck stop rationing or running out of fuel.

The explanation I’ve gotten is that there is a constant flow of diesel fuel coming in as well as going out. While the 25-day supply was abnormally low, we have been gradually building up to a 30+day supply. We can get along on low supply numbers as long as everything runs as it’s supposed to. If a refinery unexpectedly shuts down, a pipeline goes out of service, or we become victims of a real-life Cyber Polygon attack; that is when the low diesel supply may turn into regional shortages. The southeastern states are vulnerable, for example, because there’s only one pipeline feeding the entire region.

Due to the climate change agenda, there’s little incentive for energy companies to spend money updating their refineries. It’s just a matter of time before refining oil will cost carbon credits or take points away from the all-important ESG score.

So, the answer is, yes, we are at risk of diesel fuel interruptions. We are vulnerable to mechanical breakdowns and criminal sabotage. Our leaders have drained the strategic oil reserve while allowing us to be one crisis away from a regional diesel shortage. It may or may not happen, but the truth is that it can happen.

Update on California’s AB5 Law

California Assembly Bill 5, also referred to as AB5, is the law that reclassified many self-employed workers as employees. Here is a link to my original article on the topic if you want the background information on the California law. I wrote about the law as it applies to truckers.

First of all, the ports put an abrupt end to the protests. No one would be allowed to block the ports or they would be arrested.

Several trucking companies switched their lease-operator drivers into employee drivers to comply with the law. They settled back wages and taxes in agreements with the government. The CA Labor & Workforce Development Agency is still planning to investigate and litigate complaints of employee mischaracterization. The trucking companies would like to wait and see what kind of caselaw comes out of these decisions, but they probably won’t have the luxury of waiting through years of court decisions.

OOIDA, The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, teamed up with the ATA, The American Trucking Associations, to continue litigating against AB5, claiming the US Constitution’s Commerce Clause prevents California from enforcing AB5. This is seen as a long shot since the Supreme Court already sent the case back down to be handled by the lower court.

Many laws that begin in California spread across country to be taken up in like-minded states. So far, it doesn’t look like the AB5 employment test will be replicated state by state.

The Department of Labor under the Biden administration came up with their own test for classifying employees. Some say that the new guidance is similar to what we had under President Obama, while others have written that it is going to bring the AB5 interpretation nationwide. It is stricter than what the Trump administration was allowing which will push more self-employed truckers into the employee category.

California has forced their lease-owner operators to make important decisions on how they should best cope with this new law. Enforcement is moving slow enough to avoid major disruptions in the transport of freight, at least for now. Nationwide, the answers will eventually be resolved in court rulings by those willing to go through the nightmare of litigation against the federal government.

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Author: Robin Peterson

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