Most professional truckers know that in order to operate properly, you have to know your rights as well as your responsibilities. You can bet that if you aren't aware of what your motor carrier can or cannot do, you'll always be at their mercy. By the same token, if you don't keep up-to-date on your own responsibilities, you will end up paying the price when you make a mistake. Here are some questions I received recently that will illustrate my point:
A longtime OOIDA member writes, "I'm in the household goods hauling business and find myself wondering how I can tell if I'm being paid fairly. My contract calls for me to be paid on a percentage basis and recently I hauled a load that I suspect paid more than my settlement check indicated. Is there a law that my company has to show me what they are charging the shipper?"
The answer is yes. Federal leasing regulations require your lease to specify that the motor carrier will give you (the lessor) a copy of the rated freight bill or a computer-generated document containing the same information before or at the time of settlement, whenever your compensation is based on a percentage of the gross revenue of the shipment. It is not a good business practice to simply take the motor carrier's word for it...be sure to exercise your right to examine a copy of the rated freight bill. Making this a part of your normal practice will not only keep your motor carrier honest, but should also improve your relationship with them once you know you can respect their integrity.
If you aren't aware of what your motor carrier can or cannot do, you'll always be at their mercy
Here is another question that I'm asked frequently: "The motor carrier I am planning to sign on with told me they require me to have a satellite tracking system in my truck. When I mentioned that this is an expense I had not expected, they told me they would provide the equipment for me and take it out of my settlement checks. I'm not sure I want to do this. Can they really make me get this tracking system?"
A motor carrier can require its leased owner-operators to have certain equipment, such as a satellite tracking system, in the truck. If you object to this requirement and cannot convince the motor carrier to waive it in your case, then you will have to decide whether or not you want to sign a lease with them. However, if you decide to go ahead and allow the equipment to be installed in your truck, keep in mind that the carrier cannot force you to obtain it from them. Your contract with them should state that you are not required to purchase or rent any products, equipment or services from the motor carrier as a condition of signing the lease. If it does not, they are in violation of the federal leasing regulations. If you agree to obtain the required equipment from your motor carrier, make sure that the terms of the agreement are clear to you and spelled out in the contract that you sign. The carrier also may require that you maintain insurance on any equipment you obtain through them, but again, they cannot force you to buy the insurance from them. Remember that if you decide to get the insurance through the carrier, you are entitled to a copy of the policy, and it is a good idea to ask for one so you will have it for your records.
While it is important for you to be aware of your rights, it is equally important for you to know how to meet your responsibilities. Here is an example taken from an e-mail received from an OOIDA member:
Exercise your right to examine a copy of the rated freight bill
"I was recently convicted of a speeding violation in my personal vehicle. A friend of mine, who is also a truckdriver, tells me that because I have a CDL and operate a commercial vehicle, I must inform my employer of this conviction. I say I don't have to because the conviction was the result of a ticket I received in my car...not the truck. Who's right?"
Sorry to have to tell you this, but your friend is correct. You must notify your employer within 30 days after the date that you were convicted. It doesn't matter what type of vehicle you were driving at the time. You should make the notification in writing and include your full name, CDL number, date of conviction, specific offense, indication of whether it was received in a personal or commercial vehicle, location of offense and your signature.
If you have questions that you'd like answered, contact: Donna Ryun, Information Services, OOIDA, PO Box 1000, Grain Valley, MO 64029. Or you can e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Although we won't be able to publish all questions in Land Line, you will receive a response.