I've always been told I should never be afraid to ask questions if I wanted answers, and judging by the variety of questions I've been getting from OOIDA members these past few weeks, they feel the same way. Here's just a sample of what professional truckers want to know:
Question: I was leased to a carrier who charged me for base plates and deducted the fee from my settlement check when I first signed on. I have since terminated my lease with this carrier and turned in the plates. I thought I'd get a refund, but have seen nothing yet. Do I get any money back or not? I need some advice because I need the money more than the company does.–Mick
Answer: Mick, your contract with the carrier should specify who is responsible for base plates and any unused portions, so check your lease for this wording.
According to federal leasing regulations, if you paid for base plates issued in the name of the authorized carrier, and the carrier receives a refund/credit or sells them to another lessor, they must refund a prorated share of the amount received to the original lessor (that's you).
This isn't to say they won't just throw the plates in a drawer and forget about them. If they do this, you likely won't receive a refund any time soon. You can keep tabs on whether or not the carrier has sold the base plates to another lessor by calling the state where they were issued and checking out the vehicle identification number on the truck that matches the plates.
Question: I was recently under lease with a carrier that required an escrow fund. I terminated my lease and was wondering if they are required to pay any interest on this account? Any information on this would be appreciated.–C.S.
Answer: The federal leasing regulations have quite a bit to say about escrow funds, including the payment of interest while the fund is under the control of the carrier. Specifically, the regulations require that interest must be paid on "at least a quarterly basis.” The interest rate is based on the average yield or equivalent coupon issued yield on 91-day, 13-week Treasury bills as established in the weekly auction by the Department of Treasury. The carrier may deduct a sum equal to your average advance during the interest period in order to calculate the balance on which interest must be paid.
Question: I was recently leased to a carrier who began deducting "dispatch charges” from my weekly settlement checks. I always make it a point to read any contract wording prior to signing, and this lease was no exception. These so-called dispatch charges were not specified in the lease agreement, so I questioned the company and was informed it was a common practice. Is the company within its rights to make these dispatch charges? Shouldn't this have been spelled out in my lease to begin with?–Jackson
Answer: Although the company can set its own policies regarding dispatch charges, you still have the right to reject this practice by looking elsewhere for a better contract. However, in your case, the company apparently stepped on your right to reject the dispatch fees because they failed to mention them in your contract. This is definitely a violation of the federal leasing regulations, and if pointing this out to the carrier doesn't help, you have other options. Private right of action provisions allow you to bring a civil action in order to enforce the federal leasing regulations. You should be able to recoup legal expenses as a part of the action as well. In addition, if this carrier's violation of the federal leasing regulations extends to a large number of lessors, a class action lawsuit may be a possibility. OOIDA's Business Services department is available to assist you with this type of complaint if warranted.
Question: I've got a buddy who told me I can't get into trouble for falsifying my logbook if I don't sign it. Is this true?–B.E.
Answer: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations state the driver and/or the carrier can be prosecuted for making false reports in a logbook. Regulations also require the driver to keep the logbook current to the time of the last change-of-duty status. As far as enforcement action is concerned, it doesn't matter whether the record is signed or not … if you're caught falsifying your logs, you can be cited and fined.
Question: How do I figure my cost per mile?–C.J.K.
Answer: First you'll need to calculate all the expenses associated with operating your truck, both fixed and variable. An example of a fixed expense might be your truck payment, while a variable cost would be fuel or repairs. Next, divide this total by the number of miles you drive, and you'll have your cost per mile. Please remember, in order to get a clear picture of your overall CPM, you'll need to have more than a month's records. Knowing your CPM can help you determine whether or not a load will make you money or end up costing you money, so it's important to do the math.
If you have questions that you'd like answered, please e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Although we won't be able to publish all questions in Land Line, you will receive a response.