LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California trucking companies that haul everything from summer strawberries to cars and Christmas toys say they are under threat from a bill that could turn so-called gig workers into employees.

California state senators late on Tuesday passed AB5, proposed legislation that would set tougher standards for determining which workers can be properly classified as independent contractors. Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom has signaled support for the measure, which would take effect on Jan. 1.

The legislation threatens to upend a swath of California businesses that rely on freelance drivers. While the spotlight has been on ride-sharing companies Uber Technologies Inc and Lyft Inc , the trucking industry that underpins the U.S. agriculture, retail and industrial sectors is also heavily exposed.

"It's going to hit all trucking firms small and large," said Joseph Rajkovacz, director of governmental affairs for the Western States Trucking Association.

Trucking companies of all stripes call on the roughly 70,000 California independent big rig owners to haul loads in the state and around the country.

Experts say California's mostly small 137,000 trucking firms are vulnerable to upheaval wrought by AB5.

"We have a lot of peaks and valleys. It takes all the flexibility away from us," said Bill Aboudi, whose...

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