Truck drivers: FMCSA wants to see your leasing agreement

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WASHINGTON — If you’re a truck driver and have a lease agreement with a trucking company, federal regulators want to see your contract — especially if you feel it’s predatory or fraudulent.
The request is part of a data collection that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is requesting on behalf of its Truck Leasing Task Force (TLTF) in an effort to crack down on deceptive leasing practices that can affect a truck driver’s health and safety.
TLTF, stood up by FMCSA last year as part of a congressional mandate, is tasked with “reviewing the terms, conditions, and equitability” of truck leasing arrangements between owner-operators and trucking companies.
“Consistent with the above statutory authority, TLTF will also examine financing arrangements among motor carriers, entry-level drivers, driver training providers, and other involved entities, which may result in new drivers entering the trucking workforce encumbered by outsized debt and inequitable terms for repayment and will identify potential illegal practices to law enforcement or regulators, as appropriate,” FMCSA stated in a notice scheduled to be published on Friday.
During TLTF’s public meeting in January, the panel discussed a list of questions for drivers who may have entered into predatory lease contracts, as well as questions for drivers who have had positive leasing experiences that could help put fraudulent or inequitable agreements into context.
As a committee, “we have to establish a record of data and evidence about what these relationships look like, so having this information will help us with that,” TLTF member Steve Viscelli, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania who specializes in truck driver behavior, told FreightWaves.
“The ultimate goal is to make a series of recommendations for best practices and advice to policymakers on the effects of predatory truck leasing practices on safety, and what can be done about it.”
Questions for truck drivers/lessees include:
Could you provide copies of leasing documents and copies of documents for all other financial products associated with your work as a CMV [commercial motor vehicle] lessee (i.e., training debt, maintenance debt, earned wage access, contact from debt collectors, etc.)?
What were the actual terms of the lease?
How was the lease-purchase agreement marketed to you?
Were you able to negotiate the terms? Were you provided any information about other financing alternatives?
Were you informed of how the motor carrier works with independent contractors vs. company drivers and lease-purchase drivers when business is slow?
If you took out maintenance debt, were you required to use the title of your CMV as security?
Were you able to successfully complete the terms of your lease-purchase agreement? How much did you owe at the completion of your lease?
If you owe a balance on your lease-purchase agreement, are you being contacted by the motor carrier, third-party debt collectors or finance companies? Have you been threatened with a lawsuit to collect these debts? Do collection efforts cease when a driver files for bankruptcy or obtains bankruptcy discharge?
What have the effects of your lease-purchase agreement been on your finances, employment experience, professional mobility, workplace health and safety, and family’s well-being?
Questions for trucking companies/lessors include:
If you are or were a lessor of CMVs, what best practices do, or did you implement or recommend to ensure that all leases of CMVs you provide are fair and just? If your lessees are pleased with the terms you provide, please expound on those terms.
If you lease CMVs to drivers but do not own the CMV (e.g., the CMV is being financed by your company and then you lease it to a driver), how do you determine how much to charge the driver under the lease agreement and how do you ensure the driver can ultimately own the vehicle if there is a lease-purchase agreement?
Do you have any specific agreements available to drayage drivers at ports relating to the Clean Truck Program or any similar program to decrease emissions from port operations? Do you have any data that would show the impact of truck leasing agreements on the net compensation of CMV drivers, including port drayage drivers?
FMCSA will share question responses with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is a technical advisor to the TLTF.
The agency also emphasized that because the information will be posted to a public docket, personal information such as Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers and personal addresses should be redacted from leasing documents before submitting them to FMCSA.
Comments submitted in response to the notice will be shared with TLTF prior to its next public meeting, Viscelli said, which the task force is planning to hold at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky, in March.
FMCSA on Thursday updated the status of its planned detention time study and its effect on driver safety and trucking operations.
Two-thirds of the 171 public comments collected last year on how the study should be conducted described a relationship between detention time and driver compensation, FMCSA noted. That relationship is the focus of a separate study the agency is sponsoring for the Transportation Research Board, and the two “will complement each other and provide vital information on detention time,” according to FMCSA.
Also, even though roughly 40% of the comments FMCSA received on the study’s parameters referenced the effect that detention time can have on driver welfare — such as increasing fatigue and causing stress, frustration and anger — those effects will not be part of the study.
“The impact of detention time on driver welfare, while outside the scope of the current study, is an important topic and may be examined in a follow-up study,” FMCSA stated.
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