OOIDA Information Services
Lots of good questions from truckers came across my desk this past year, and I was pleased to be able to answer many of them in this column. I'm looking forward to your questions in 2006, so please keep them coming.
However, in this month's column, I thought it would be helpful to do a review of the most frequently asked questions in 2005, so here's the countdown beginning with ...
No. 10: I'm an OOIDA member, but I don't always get the member's edition of Land Line Magazine. I get the regular issue instead. Why?
Answer: The special Member Supplement is only published quarterly, while Land Line is published nine times a year. So on an annual basis, only four issues include the Member Supplement.
No. 9: How can I be sure that a broker is paying me the percentage that was agreed upon?
Answer: Under Title 49 CFR 371.3 "Records to be kept by brokers," subsection C says each party to a brokered transaction has the right to review the record of the transaction required to be kept by these rules."
Requesting this information after you haul the first load for a new broker is a strong tool to use. However, note that only the parties involved in a deal have the right to see the documents. If you are leased to a company, you are not a party in the deal, and therefore the request for documents must come from the company.
Whether the load was flat rated or a percentage, the regulation still gives you the right to review the record.
If the broker refuses to cooperate, it is enforceable under private right of action, Federal law 49 USC 14704 (a), and 14707. This rule will allow you to obtain a court order requiring brokers to comply with regulations.
In the event you have to go to court to get this information, private right of action also allows a court to award reasonable attorney's fees as part of the costs of the action.
No. 8: I'm an employee driver. Can I join OOIDA?
Answer: We welcome employee drivers. OOIDA represents the interests of independent owner-operators and professional drivers on all issues that affect truckers, and we appreciate the support of both groups.
Although we're very pleased to be able to offer all of our members the programs and services that we've put together, we realize that the need for them is much greater for those who own their own equipment than for employee drivers.
However, keep in mind that the real purpose and benefit of the Association is the representation we provide before state and federal governments. All drivers can benefit substantially from OOIDA's representation.
No. 7: Is OOIDA going to organize a strike to protest fuel prices?
Answer: Because of anti-trust laws, OOIDA cannot organize a strike without risking criminal penalties and/or civil lawsuits.
Although the Association cannot call for or support a strike or shutdown, individual truckers can certainly withhold their services when inadequate revenues or other circumstances make it unprofitable for them to continue to operate. OOIDA's mission is to support its members, whether they are running or not.
Running compliant and leaving cheap freight sitting on the docks is more effective than a strike or protest. Truckers should spread the word about OOIDA and encourage other drivers to join. If we could get more truckers to join OOIDA, our strength and resources would increase proportionately and so would our ability to gain the clout we need to make changes for the better.
No. 6: Can the company that I lease to refuse to pay me until they get paid?
Answer: No. Leasing regulations require motor carriers to pay leased owner-operators within 15 days after submission of the necessary paperwork, regardless whether the carrier has been paid. This regulation can be found in part 376.12 (f) in the FMCSRs.
No. 5: What is OOIDA going to do about lowering fuel prices?
Answer: This is a tough one. We'd like to be able to tell you that we can quickly end the suffering for all those small-business truckers who are struggling to stay afloat, but unfortunately, there's no easy fix.
The fact is, the only people who can lower fuel prices are the people who sell it. And right now they have no incentive to lower prices.
Global demand for diesel has risen substantially, and refiners are selling to the highest bidders. Developing countries like China have increased the demand for diesel to run their plants, and even some U.S. refiners are sending their product there because they can get higher prices.
This, in turn, lowers supplies here in the United States and causes higher prices for us. The damage to refineries caused by recent hurricanes along the Gulf Coast has also contributed to the supply problem.
While it's true that oil companies are raking in the dough right now with reports of obscene profits, they are not necessarily violating any laws. Truckers must turn their focus toward finding ways to offset increased fuel costs, and OOIDA will continue to push for legislation that will help them do this.
Meanwhile, truckers can help themselves by taking back some of the control they have lost by allowing shippers and brokers to set the rates for them. Truckers can - and should - set their own rates by knowing their cost of operation, determining their break-even point, and charging a rate that will allow them to make a profit for their business.
If a load is not profitable, don't haul it! If all truckers refuse to haul for low rates, shippers, motor carriers and brokers will be forced to pay higher prices in order to get their freight moved.
No. 4: What is the per diem rate for meals?
Answer: In 2005, it was 70 percent of $41. In 2006, it will be 75 percent of $52 per day, according to the folks at PBS Tax and Bookkeeping Services, who write the "Tax Tips" column for Land Line.
No. 3: How can I get a copy of my DAC report?
Answer: You are entitled to request disclosure of the contents of your DAC file, and DAC is required to respond within 15 days. This includes both owner-operators and company drivers.
Drivers wishing to obtain a copy of employment information previous employers have stored on them may send a copy of their driver's license and Social Security card to:
USIS Transportation Services
PO Box 33181
Tulsa, OK 74153
Or you can visit usis.com/commercialservices/transportation/ContactUs.htm on the Internet. You'll need to provide your home address and telephone number along with all correspondence. Keep a copy of your request for your own files.
No. 2: Where can I get a copy of the Federal Leasing Regulations?
Answer: Simple. You can obtain a copy of the leasing regulations by calling OOIDA toll free at 1-800-444-5791, or send requests via e-mail to email@example.com. Or you can download a PDF version of the regulations by visiting the Association's Web site at ooida.com and clicking on "Regulatory Action" on the left-hand side of the Web page. Then click on the document titled "DOT Leasing Regulations."
And the No. 1 top 10 FAQ for 2005 is .
No. 1: Is there a law that requires companies to pay a fuel surcharge, and can the company keep a portion of it?
Answer: There is currently no law that requires the payment of fuel surcharges, and there is no law that requires companies to pass any fuel surcharges they collect through to the cost bearer.
OOIDA has tried for several years to get such a law passed, but Congress has not done so. We think it's stealing for any company to retain fuel surcharges that are meant to help the cost bearer to recoup expenses for the extra fuel costs, but many do just that.
We encourage truckers to ask for a fuel surcharge and have the terms of it written into their leases or contracts. All collected fuel surcharges should go to the person who pays for the fuel, and truckers should speak up if 100 percent is not being passed through.
Visit our Web site at ooida.com for information on how to implement a fuel surcharge. Scroll down to the bottom of the page under the heading "Swimming with Sharks" and click on the line that says "More Swimming With Sharks." Then click on the headline that says "Small business owner-operators: JUST DO IT How to implement a fuel surcharge." Those readers who do have web access are always welcome to call OOIDA toll-free at 1-800-444-5791 for assistance.
And there you have it - the top 10 FAQs for 2005.
We're ready for 2006, so if you have questions about doing business as an owner-operator and/or an independent driver, please e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org or send themto PO Box 1000, Grain Valley, MO 64029. We