As truckers have been working harder than ever to keep the nation moving during the COVID-19 crisis, many say that they’re also having to fight back against plummeting rates from freight brokers.
Things have looked bleak for many truckers during the month of April as non-essential businesses across the country shuttered, oil prices fell dramatically, and consumer demand cooled following a flurry of buying during the early days of the pandemic.
According to DAT Solutions, rates hit a four-year low of $1.48 per mile nationally. “Truckload rates fell lower again last week for dry van equipment, and there’s no clear sign of when they might rebound. It could be a couple more weeks before rate trends even flatten out. There’s no good news for truckers this week, although some markets and lanes are less terrible than others,” DAT Solutions wrote in an April 22 blog post.
“According to DAT Solutions Chief of Analytics Ken Adamo, rates have fallen to a four-year low at $1.48 nationally and $1.32 for drives delivering to Wisconsin.” https://t.co/JNKKmgiKrL
— DAT Freight & Analytics (@LoadBoards) April 23, 2020
In response to these conditions, major trucker protests took place in Houston, Los Angeles, and Phoenix last week as independent truckers took to the streets to protest low rates from freight brokers.
Truckers protesting on the 10 Fwy in Downtown LA blocking traffic. pic.twitter.com/3lUjf2n8Nc
— Ed-grr (@idntfd) April 24, 2020
During each of the protest activities, truckers asked for fair prices on loads and regulations on freight brokers. Many displayed signs urging their fellow drivers to “say no to cheap freight.”
The drivers say that freight brokers are taking advantage of the chaos and uncertainty caused by the pandemic to slash rates and pad their own profit margin.
As a result of the Houston protest activities, the Houston Police Department announced that they planned to investigate driver claims of wage theft by brokers. Police also cited dozens of truck drivers and arrested one woman.
Drivers are also looking for other ways to raise awareness about alleged bad behavior by brokers. More than 8,200 people have signed a new petition created by independent contractor Rodney Lara asking for “Changes to how brokers manage the trucking industry. No to CHEAP LOADS.”
Lara detailed how he believes brokers are taking advantage of truckers during the pandemic:
Brokers with whom many truckers work with are the middlemen between the shipper and the carrier. They, not all, but most are the problem. These individuals found a way around the system and try to keep every penny they can. Offering loads from a lot less than they are getting them and have no regulations what so ever on how they conduct their business. Meanwhile truckers are tracked thru electronic log books and are audited to check the mileage run, the states run, the fuel purchased and much more. Even when the owner operator takes the load, they have contracts in place in order to be able to reduce the amounts paid, such as having to do check calls, or been late to appointments (both can cause reductions of up to $200 each). Then, when the brokers are in the wrong, they leave the trucker up the air
You can click here to view or sign the petition.
As the problem persists, trucker protests to raise awareness about low rates and the costs associated with trucking are planned again this week as part of the “Mayday” movement.
In the video below, trucker Lori Franklin says that brokers have “cut the freight rates down to nothing” and describes the need for action for action, using the hashtag #mayday.