QUESTION: The company I am leased to is owned by a man who operates from his residence. The owner's wife does the payroll. Recently, the owner and his wife simply left for a vacation without informing me in advance. Since I am a fairly new owner-operator, this really hurt me financially because he assured me that he would be able to keep me busy. Doesn't he have to live up to the promises he made?
Also, it concerns me that whenever his wife is out of town, the payroll has to wait until she returns. This does not seem like good business to me. Could you please give me some feedback on what to do?
ANSWER: While I agree it is not ethical to make promises you don't intend to keep, it happens frequently when dealing with motor carriers. Your best defense is to be prepared for any possibility; however, that's not always easy to do, especially in the trucking industry.
Unless your lease contains wording that specifies a minimum amount of loads for you to transport (this is rarely the case), there is no regulation that would prohibit your carrier from letting you sit without warning while he takes a vacation.
As far as payroll is concerned, however, the federal leasing regulations require motor carriers to pay leased owner-operators within 15 days of submission of the required paperwork. You shouldn't have to wait and wonder when you'll be paid. Your lease should contain wording to this effect, and if it doesn't, the carrier is in violation of federal regulations.
Your options are to confront your carrier in a rational manner and ask that he comply with federal regulations by paying within 15 days as required. You can also take this opportunity to express your concerns about surprise vacation days. If you take the time to explain the hardships you experience as a result of these actions, you may find the owner will understand and be more cooperative. If not, you can decide whether continuing to lease to this carrier is in your best interests.
If you decide to terminate the contract, be sure to read the termination clause carefully and fully comply with the written terms in order to avoid any penalty. Finally, you can exercise your private right of action and take the carrier to court for violating the federal leasing regulations by failing to make payment to you within 15 days.
Always read the lease carefully before you sign it, and negotiate for the terms you would like included in the written document. Verbal agreement is not acceptable … get the terms in writing and signed by the parties involved.
Get a copy of the federal leasing regulations and make yourself familiar with them so you'll know your rights as a leased owner-operator. You can find the regulations by visiting OOIDA's Web site at www.ooida.com, or you can contact OOIDA's Business Services department at 1-800-444-5791 to request a copy.
QUESTION: I read several months back about a decision by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that periodic tire checks on hazardous materials loads were no longer required. Does that mean all the tire inspection requirements are gone or do I still need to show an inspection whenever I stop?
ANSWER: Prior to Nov. 4, 2002, the regulations required drivers of vehicles with dual tires hauling hazardous materials to stop every two hours or 100 miles to inspect the tires. The original purpose of this requirement was to prevent fires caused by overheated tires; however, since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks occurred, the FMCSA decided frequent stops by vehicles transporting hazardous loads would create a security risk. Because the regulatory agency felt that any stop would provide the opportunity for hijacking and theft, it proposed eliminating the requirement for periodic tire checks.
The proposal was opened for comments, and, after the majority of the comments received supported the suggested change, section 397.17, paragraph (a) was revised to read as follows:
”A driver must examine each tire on a motor vehicle at the beginning of each trip and each time the vehicle is parked.”
To answer your question, although drivers are no longer required to stop every two hours or 100 miles to inspect the tires, they must continue to conduct tire inspections before beginning a trip and whenever they park the vehicle.
QUESTION: Is there any reason for my company to require me to give them my fuel receipts when they do not do my fuel taxes?
ANSWER: According to Section 395.8 (k) (1) of the FMCSRs, motor carriers are required to ”maintain records of duty status and all supporting documents for each driver it employs for a period of six months from the date of receipt.”
Guidance under the Interpretations section of the FMCSR handbook includes fuel receipts in its definition of supporting documents. It also includes such items as credit card receipts, weight/scale tickets, toll receipts, cash advance receipts and much more. According to the guidance, ”Supporting documents may include other documents which the motor carrier maintains and can be used to verify information on the driver's records of duty status.”
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