By Donna Ryun
OOIDA communications director
Part of my job at OOIDA is to respond to the many e-mails that we receive every day. Most of these e-mails are questions from drivers who are working hard to learn everything they can about the business of trucking. With loads of rules and regulations – many of which change on a regular basis – it’s often difficult for drivers to keep up with, or to even comprehend, what is expected of them in the first place.
A good resource that I use every day to find answers to some of the tough questions I receive is right down the hall from me in the Member Assistance Department. It’s no accident that many of the staff members in this department are former truck drivers who have been there, done that, and have the real-life experience to know the trucking business inside and out. I can always count on these folks to help me with good, reliable information, and you can, too. Your answers are just a toll-free phone call away (800-444-5791), so don’t be shy about asking for help when you need it.
Here is just a sample of the many questions that the staff in OOIDA’s Member Assistance Department field every day:
Q. If I get an overweight ticket and I pay it, do I have to tell my carrier?
A. Under the FMCSA regulation 383.31 (b), it states that “each person who operates a commercial motor vehicle, who has a commercial driver’s license issued by a state or jurisdiction, and who is convicted of violating, in any type of motor vehicle, a state or local law relating to motor vehicle traffic control (other than a parking violation), shall notify his/her current employer of such conviction. The notification must be made within 30 days after the date that the person has been convicted. If the driver is not currently employed, he/she must notify the state or jurisdiction which issued the license according to 383.31 (a)”.
Q. Can my carrier charge insurance premiums back to me?
A. All insurance requirements should be specified within your lease agreement with your motor carrier. If the premiums for any of those coverages are to be deducted from your settlements, this must also be specified within the lease.
It is important to remember that the law requires the authorized motor carrier to maintain liability protection for the public in all instances. The fact that the leased owner-operator maintains non-trucking liability, bobtail or unladen liability does not relieve the carrier from its legal obligation to maintain insurance for the protection of the public for all motor vehicles operating under its authority. If the carrier makes a charge to your settlement checks for this liability coverage, you should make sure that the charge-back reflects the amount that was agreed upon within the terms of your contract.
Q. Can my carrier force me to change a logbook entry?
A. The carrier has a duty to require drivers to observe the regulations. In fact, the carrier can be held liable if the driver falsifies his/her logbook and the carrier accepts it. However, if you have run compliant and logged everything correctly, the carrier has no reason to ask you to make any corrections and can’t force you to falsify your records.
The motor carrier may return your logbook to you for correction of inaccurate or incomplete entries. According to FMCSA guidance, “a driver may submit a corrected records of duty status to the motor carrier at any time.” If you submit a corrected copy, it is suggested that the carrier mark it as “corrected copy” and attach it to the original record.
Q. Can my carrier hold my pay because I have not turned in maintenance reports?
A. No. Federal Leasing Regulations state that “payment to the lessor must be made within 15 days after submission of the necessary delivery documents and other paperwork concerning a trip in the service of the authorized carrier. The paperwork required before the lessor can receive payment is limited to log books required by the Department of Transportation and those documents necessary for the authorized carrier to secure payment for the shipper.”
Keep in mind that the carrier may require that you submit additional documents, but cannot hold your settlement check pending receipt of them.
Q. Can my carrier force me to purchase a Qualcomm unit through them?
A. No, they cannot. They can require that you have a Qualcomm unit, but the truth-in-leasing regulations prohibit carriers from requiring you to purchase it from or through them. The same is true with any goods or services that you may need. You must be free to obtain them from the market of your choice.
Here’s the wording from the regulations, Section 376.12 (i): “Products, equipment, or services from authorized carrier— The lease shall specify that the lessor is not required to purchase or rent any products, equipment, or services from the authorized carrier as a condition of entering into the lease arrangement. The lease shall specify the terms of any agreement in which the lessor is a party to an equipment purchase or rental contract which gives the authorized carrier the right to make deductions from the lessor’s compensation for purchase or rental payments.”
It’s worth noting that although carriers cannot force you to purchase the unit from or through them, they can charge back for the messages as long as these terms are specified within the lease agreement.
It’s clear that whether you are looking for assistance with a specific problem or just wanting advice about the treatment you’re receiving from a broker or carrier, OOIDA’s Member Assistance Department should be at the top of your resource list. LL