SPECIAL REPORT: Bill seeks to end fuel surcharge skimming

| 4/24/2008

Thursday, April 24, 2008 – Middlemen in the trucking industry who have been living high on the hog by pocketing fuel surcharges off freight rates may very well find their days numbered thanks to new legislation.

A bill introduced by Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-ME, and co-sponsored by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-OH, seeks to mandate 100 percent pass-through of fuel surcharges to whoever actually buys the fuel.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association commended both Snowe and Brown for their leadership in introducing the legislation, which is likely to be called the “Truthful Reliable Understanding of Consumer Costs Act” or “TRUCC Act.”

“This bill will go a long way toward helping truckers and their shipping customers weather the brutal cost of fuel,” said Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president. “Senators Snowe and Brown should be commended for their leadership on this matter.”

Fuel surcharges have been a staple in the industry as a way that trucking companies can recoup the high cost of fuel. And now with skyrocketing fuel prices, more and more is being collected – but not passed on.

There is currently not a uniform fuel surcharge standard for the trucking industry. Fuel surcharges must be negotiated individually, leaving shippers and truckers vulnerable to opportunistic middlemen.

“It’s all too common for middlemen in the trucking industry to push shippers to pay fuel surcharges, but only pass along a portion of those surcharges to the truckers who are actually hauling the freight and paying the fuel bill,” Spencer said.

To make matters worse, small-business truckers are often denied access to the contracts and rate information negotiated between freight brokers and the shipper or customer they are hauling freight for.

The TRUCC Act also looks to ensure that brokers and middlemen negotiating a contract to haul freight for a shipper are not using the high price of fuel to exploit that shipper or the small-business trucker who actually hauls the shipper’s freight.

A bill number was not immediately available, but truckers wanting to express their support of the TRUCC Act should contact their senators. Those who don’t know who their senators are can call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and provide their ZIP code to the operator to be connected to the appropriate office.

– By Jami Jones, senior editor