By Donna Ryun
OOIDA communications director
Wow, 2007 sure did come and go in a hurry – at least it seemed that way to me. Most of us had lots of issues to deal with during the past 12 months. Some were just small annoyances, while others were life altering. I hope everyone was able to cope and extend my best wishes for 2008.
Meanwhile, the questions rolled in, and I’m pleased to have been able to help with some answers. Here are 10 of the most frequently asked:
Could my CDL be at risk if I am convicted of a “serious” violation in my personal vehicle?
Answer: Yes, it could. In the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999, Congress instructed the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to make regulations requiring the disqualification of CDL holders who are convicted of a “serious” offense while operating a non-CMV.
Documentation of these proceedings can be found in the July 31, 2002, entry in the Federal Register. It specifies that Congress chose not to distinguish between “risk-taking behavior” in a passenger car or a CMV, in “the interest of safety.”
Lawmakers concluded that truckers are professional drivers and should be expected to drive professionally regardless of whether they are in a CMV or a personal vehicle.
Is it legal for a company to pull my name for a random drug and alcohol test and then make me pay for it?
Answer: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations do not address the issue of payment. They leave that up to the parties involved to decide. However, the regulations do make it clear that the employer is responsible for ensuring compliance with the rules, no matter who pays for the testing.
If you are a leased owner-operator, your lease should specify which party is responsible for payment, particularly if the company makes a charge-back against your settlement for the fee.
When I unload, the guard often asks to see my Social Security number. Do I have to show it to him? Isn’t it illegal for him to ask for it?
Answer: The answer to both questions is no. It is not illegal for people to request the number, but you can refuse. Just remember that the company can also refuse to allow you access without it.
That doesn’t mean you have to make it easy for them. Always ask if you can use another form of identification and take it all the way to the manager if they refuse. Ultimately, you’ll need to decide whether to risk providing the information or take your business elsewhere.
I’m an owner-operator who is trying to find out whether it’s legal for a motor carrier to take part of the fuel surcharge from its leased owner-operators who pay for the fuel?
Answer: There are currently no laws that address this concern. For several years, OOIDA has tried to get Congress to approve legislation that would ensure the cost bearer receives 100 percent of any fuel surcharges. However, the current administration has yet to do so.
Contact your federal lawmakers and let them know how you feel on this issue. We feel strongly that the person who pays for the fuel should receive 100 percent of any fuel surcharges. You paid for the fuel, so it’s just not right for the company to steal any portion of the fuel surcharges that the shipper paid to compensate the cost bearer.
Check the terms of your lease and always negotiate for a fuel surcharge. Get the terms written within the lease. Then, if the company does not comply with those terms, that’s a violation of your contract, and you would have legal recourse. Contact OOIDA’s member assistance department to discuss options that may be available to you.
I’m an employee driver. Can I join OOIDA?
Answer: We welcome employee drivers. OOIDA represents the interests of owner-operators and other 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 company drivers. Keep in mind that the real purpose and benefit of the Association is the representation we provide before the state and federal government, and all drivers benefit substantially from OOIDA’s representation.
Where can I get a copy of the federal leasing regulations?
Answer: I’m glad you asked because this is a very important document for leased owner-operators. You can obtain a copy of the leasing regulations by calling OOIDA toll-free at 1-800-444-5791, or send your request via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can locate them on our home page at ooida.com under the header “Regulatory Guidance.”
Do I have to buy bobtail insurance from the company I am leased to?
Answer: In a word, no. According to the federal leasing regulations, the lessor cannot be required to purchase or rent any products, equipment, or services from the authorized carrier as a condition of entering into the lease agreement. If your motor carrier requires you to provide coverages, such as bobtail insurance, they must specify it in the lease agreement. However, you can purchase the required insurance from the company of your choice. If you choose to buy your insurance through your motor carrier, you have a right to a copy of the policy and should request one.
Is there a list of states that allow the extra 400 pounds gross weight for tractors with APUs?
Answer: OOIDA has made efforts to call each state to find out whether it honors the federal 400-pound exemption. Some state officials were not even aware of it until we told them. Other states, including Florida and Nebraska, do not honor it. Oregon and Kansas have officially adopted the exemption.
We’ve had quite a few reports from folks in various states where the exemption is recognized some of the time. However, many states allowed a grace weight limit before the APU exemption. If we acquire a definitive list, we’ll be happy to share it.
In the meantime, we are including the regulation on this page so that you can make a copy and carry it in your rig when you’re on the road.
What is the per diem rate for 2007?
Answer: The per diem rate for meals in 2007 is 75 percent of $52 per day. For 2008 it remains at $52 per day, but becomes 80 percent deductible.
Can I get a copy of my DAC report? How?
Answer: You are entitled to request disclosure of the contents of your DAC file, and DAC – which does business as USIS Transportation Services – is required to respond within 15 days. This includes both owner-operators and company drivers.
Drivers wishing to obtain a copy of employment information that previous employers have stored on them may send a copy of their driver’s license and Social Security card to:
Services Consumer Department
PO Box 33181
Tulsa, OK 74153
Or, drivers with Internet access can visit this link: http://www.usis.com/commercialservices/transportation/ContactUs.htm.
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. LL
If you have questions about doing business as an owner-operator and/or an independent trucker, please e-mail them to email@example.com or send them to PO Box 1000, Grain Valley, MO 64029. We can’t publish all of your questions in Land Line, but you will receive a response, even if your letter is not published.