The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) is asking the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to explain why there has been little movement over the past two years on a popular petition asking for increased protection for truckers against unscrupulous freight brokers.
In a September 28 letter to new FMCSA Administrator Robin Hutcheson, OOIDA President and CEO Todd Spencer calls for the agency to provide an update on a broker transparency petition filed in May 2020.
In the petition, OOIDA requests that FMCSA require brokers to provide an electronic copy of each transaction record automatically within 48 hours after the contractual service has been completed, and to prohibit explicitly brokers from including any provision in their contracts that requires a motor carrier to waive its rights to access the transaction records.
The petition asked FMCSA to work to close loopholes in the existing rule 49 CFR § 371.3 which requires brokers to keep records of transactions with motor carriers and grants each party involved in the transaction the right to review the records. Currently OOIDA says that many carriers sign contracts with brokers that waive Part 371.3 requirements because doing so is a prevalent industry practice. Additionally, many brokers who do technically provide transaction records install hurdles so that carriers will likely never manage to actually see the records.
“OOIDA’s recommendations to enhance compliance with [49 CFR § 371.3] are not attempts to control rates or impose burdensome requirements, but would simply ensure that motor carriers have access to documents they have the right to view,” Spencer said.
Since OOIDA filed the petition in the spring of 2020, the FMCSA has held listening sessions and accepted public comment on broken transparency issues, but the agency has not provided any update on the petition since the public comment period ended.
Spencer said that more than 1500 public comments were received on petitions related to freight broker transparency.
For truckers who took the time to file comments and share their experience, it is frustrating when they feel as if their voices aren’t being heard or properly considered. Especially with regard to an issue involving transparency, FMCSA’s lack of public progress further undermines carriers’ confidence in a system that is supposed to protect them and be responsive to their legitimate and appropriately expressed concerns.
Listening to our members, we know that improving broker transparency remains a top priority for small-business motor carriers. While their concerns may intensify during more challenging economic times, there is constant frustration caused by brokers skirting federal transparency requirements without recourse. As conditions in the trucking industry change, and more carriers face challenges, we can assure you that FMCSA and others in the federal government will continue to hear about the lack of broker transparency from small-business truckers.
For three weeks in May 2020, a group of truckers protested on Constitution Avenue in Washington D.C. asking for relief from plummeting freight rates and unfair broker practices. Their message made its way all the way to then-President Trump, who Tweeted in support of truckers and went so far as to say that truckers are being “price gouged” by brokers.
The Washington D.C. protest activities ended shortly after trucking representatives Mike Landis and Sergey “C.J.” Karman met with Mullen and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows at the White House to ask for increased broker transparency.