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FMCSA Opens Feedback for Broker Transparency Petition

Three months ago, the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association (OOIDA) petitioned the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), requesting new regulations and/or increased enforcement of current ones. Now, the FMCSA is opening comments to the public allowing them to submit their thoughts.

The Story So Far

Current rules state that records of brokered transactions must be kept for three years and that all parties involved in the contract have the right to view them. While brokers are happy to allow people to see the records, they do not have to make it easy for them.

One method brokers can use to deter truckers and carriers is to restrict viewing to the broker’s physical location, where they can see the physical papers. Most truckers operate on a nationwide scale, and it is often too much of a burden for the driver to visit on their trip. This does not stop the broker, who now gets to say that the option is “always” available and the trucker did not exercise it.

The OOIDA asked for four different changes to improve transparency and to seal loopholes commonly used by brokers to get their way:

  1. Brokers must automatically provide an electronic copy of each transaction record within 48 hours after the contracted delivery has been finished, avoiding the “physical location” loophole.
  2. Prohibit brokers from ever requiring a carrier to waive their rights to access the transaction records as part of contractual terms.
  3. Disallow brokers from “getting even” against relevant parties who request the information, such as denying a driver a future delivery contract they would otherwise be perfect for fulfilling.
  4. Enforce established regulations more closely, including fines and suspensions for violating brokers.

Naturally, the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA) is not a fan of these proposed changes, and believes that the OOIDA is trying to use new regulations as a weapon against brokers. Robert Voltmann, CEO and president of the TIA, angrily wrote in a letter on the subject in 2005. In it, comparing the requiring of labeling rates to price-fixing found in communist Cuba rather than the United States of America.

Currently, the FMCSA is only asking for feedback on only the first of these four changes. Whether or not the other three requests will be open for feedback later or even implemented at all is currently unknown.

Conclusion

The FMCSA is now asking the public their thoughts on this petition. Whether you think these proposed changes are good to protect the little guy from abuse, or is just the little guy attempting to strong-arm the broker to his will, you can comment your opinions on the regulations webpage.

This is not the first time the OOIDA and the TIA have butted heads with one another over federal regulations. The argument stretches back to 2005 when Voltmann, who was also president and CEO of the TIA at the time, debated with the then-president of the OOIDA Jim Johnston.

In any case, this debate has been raging in the background for the past fifteen years. Whether it comes to its end in 2020 and if the current COVID-19 pandemic plays a part in the FMCSA making any changes has yet to be seen.

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