Opinion Piece: The National Owner Operators Association (NOOA) has rightly brought to the forefront the pressing issues within the general freight industry. In recent years, the freight industry has been facing challenges that threaten the livelihoods of hardworking truckers, and we must understand the root causes to find solutions.
The heart of the problem, as NOOA emphasizes, lies in the Motor Carrier Act of 1980. This landmark legislation removed barriers to entry and aimed to increase competition within the trucking industry. While these intentions were well-founded, the Act could not foresee the rapid advancements in technology and the influx of unqualified freight brokers between 2019 and 2022, which has had a detrimental impact on the industry.
As NOOA points out, even with the U.S. economy growing at a rate of 4.9% in the third quarter and increased consumer spending, freight rates have continued to plummet. This is a clear indication that unscrupulous brokers may be exploiting their positions to push rates down and undermine the economic stability of owner-operators and carriers.
The Motor Carrier Act of 1980, drafted in an era before the internet and modern technology, did not account for the rise of technology and its implications for the industry in 2023. Innovations like Project 44, which have been used to track and collect data on owner-operators without their consent, present grave concerns for privacy and data security. It is not acceptable that such information is sold to companies like DAT and Truckstop, only to be used by brokers to manipulate rates. In this era of data-driven decision-making, stronger safeguards are necessary.
It's disheartening to learn that some trucking associations, like the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), have not done enough to address these issues. The reluctance to push for new regulations leaves the industry exposed to exploitation. It is important to acknowledge that the 1980 Act, which removed most economic regulations in freight transportation, may not be suitable for the realities of today's complex supply chain.
The recent incident where a NOOA member drove his truck to the TQL main office in Cincinnati with a message spray-painted on the side is a reflection of the frustration and desperation within the industry. It is a sign that truckers are no longer willing to be ignored or sidelined in the conversation about the industry's future.
The decision by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to delay ruling on 49 CFR 371.3 until October 31, 2024, is a frustrating setback for those seeking change. As NOOA has highlighted, a considerable number of owner-operators have already failed this year, and this trend is only expected to worsen. It is evident that the status quo is unsustainable and must be addressed urgently.
It is crucial that the issues stemming from the outdated Motor Carrier Act of 1980 are addressed by Congress. NOOA's call to draft a new Motor Carrier Act in 2024 is a commendable step in the right direction. This new legislation should strike a balance between deregulation and necessary oversight, ensure privacy protection for owner-operators, and promote fair and transparent industry practices.
The recent bankruptcy filings of numerous freight brokers highlight the need for immediate action. When billion-dollar companies feel the need to steal from carriers and owner-operators, and are only required to have a minimal bond to cover potential losses, it raises a significant concern about who is truly regulating our supply chain.
The time has come for a comprehensive reform of the freight industry to address the challenges of the 21st century. Congress must heed the call to act and rectify the issues that have plagued the industry for too long. It is only by doing so that we can protect the interests of truckers, maintain the integrity of our supply chain, and ensure the long-term health of the U.S. economy.
By: Michael Boston - President, National Owner Operators Association
This article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the AJOT editorial board or Fleur de lis Publishing, Inc. and its owners.
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