Broker misinformation overload threatens to fatigue lawmakers

May 29, 2020

Jami Jones

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In this week’s installment of the flailing attempts by the Transportation Intermediaries Association to fight back against mandatory broker transparency, we saw a 1,600 word novella go out on Capitol Hill from the group.

Reading it was obviously infuriating. But for lawmakers, it has to be exhausting. Exhausting to the point that it could be tempting to give up and “turn the car around” because they’re too worn out to even care which kid touched the other first.

And that, my friends, is exactly what the TIA is banking on. They want to turn this into the back seat brawl so mom and dad get tired of it and just go home and nothing happens. They are angling hard for the status quo.

So, let’s recap.

Truckers organized a protest in D.C. to highlight an ages-old problem with brokers taking more than their “fair share.” To find out what that fair share is, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association pointed out, as it has for years, that 371.3 mandates that all parties to the shipping transaction be allowed to review the paperwork.

TIA sprung back into action first by victim blaming. Then they moved to reminding its membership how to circumvent the spirit of the regulation. They are doing everything they can to keep motor carriers, especially owner-operators, in the dark. They are throwing wild punches full of misinformation and basically encouraging noncompliance with the regulation.

In their latest exhausting letter to Capitol Hill, they claim that all truckers have to do is file a complaint with the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration via the National Consumer Complaint Database if a broker is in violation.

Shortly thereafter, an article ran in the trucking trade media quoting Jim Mullen, FMCSA’s acting administrator, saying the agency hasn’t received any complaints about brokers.

Uhhhh, I’m pretty sure the hundreds of truckers who staged the weeks long protest lodged some complaints. Check that, a lot of complaints. But, I’m going to go with that Mullen meant through official channels.

Roger that. Let’s do that. Oh wait. You can’t.

That’s right. There is no way in the National Consumer Complaint Database (what a terrible name for the site and really doesn’t covey what the site is for, but I digress) to lodge complaints against brokers.

Read it slowly. It’s. Not. Possible.

No where on the National Consumer Complaint Database can someone lodge complaints against brokers.
Nowhere on the National Consumer Complaint Database can someone lodge complaints against brokers.

So the litany of lies now has people combing through the NCCDB looking for a way. OOIDA’s Business Services department is assisting members with filing some broker complaints. They are just going to check off on boxes that do not accurately represent the nature of the complaint. Will it do any good? Remains to be seen. It’s common practice for agencies to toss things out that are “outside the scope” of the requested information.

Add the fact that there’s no official way to file a complaint on a noncompliant broker, and there isn’t just a whole lot of faith that anything happens with complaints lodged via the NCCDB.

This whole thing is really mind blowing how TIA is going about it. They have torn a page out of the “If you say it long enough and loud enough, it’s becomes truth” playbook. We can’t let that happen.

Dear lawmakers and regulators, listen carefully to the voices you are hearing. Truckers have made a very big play to get your attention. OOIDA is diligently trying to get you to understand the situation they are facing and directing you to the solution. TIA is throwing all the smoke and mirrors at you that they can. The brokers are … well … wait a minute. The brokers are noticeably silent on this. Could it be short of misinformation and that concerted circumvention of the 371.3 regulation are all they have, and they are just letting TIA do the dirty work? Sure seems to be.

Look, the bottom line is truckers aren’t asking for something new. The regulation is on the books, and they’re just asking for it to be enforced and some repercussions for noncompliant brokers. The good brokers, and they are out there, will benefit in the end when the predators are eventually run out of business. That’s a win for all the good guys.

Transparency is not a new concept, nor are we asking for something unprecedented. Real estate agents disclose their commission rates to buyers and sellers. This, while not identical in nature, is spot on with the spirit of the regulation on the books.

But here’s the bottom line:

  • Is there a regulation that mandates transparency? Yes.
  • Is it being complied with? No.
  • Are many brokers violating the spirit of the regulation? Yes.
  • Is it being enforced? No.
  • Is there a way to enforce official complaints of noncompliance? No.

It’s pretty simple when you clear out all the rhetoric. So, fix it. Now.

Jami Jones

Jami Jones has been in journalism since 1991 – focused on the trucking industry since 2000. Whether judging Shell SuperRigs or writing hard-hitting analyses, she covers trucking from lug nuts to legislation – always with the trucker in mind.