SPECIAL REPORT: Fuel surcharge legislation moving in House, Senate

| 5/7/2008

Wednesday, May 7, 2008 – The days of middlemen using fuel surcharges as a way to beef up their profits may very well be numbered thanks to bipartisan legislation being considered in both chambers of Congress.

A bill introduced May 6 by Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-OR, and co-sponsored by Rep. Thomas Petri, R-WI, and Rep. Brad Ellsworth, D-IN, seeks to mandate 100 percent pass-through of fuel surcharges to whoever actually buys the fuel.

The bill, HR5977, “Truth in Reliable Understanding of Consumer Costs Act,” or the “TRUCC Act,” is identical to a bill introduced in the Senate in late April by Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-ME, and co-sponsored by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-OH.

“This bill will go a long way toward helping truckers and their shipping customers weather the brutal cost of fuel,” said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

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 currently is 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 seeks 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.

OOIDA issued a national Call to Action on Wednesday, May 7, urging its members to contact their lawmakers in support of the legislation. To read the Call to Action, click here.

Truckers wanting to express their support of the TRUCC Act should call both of their senators and their representative. Those who don’t know who their lawmakers 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