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April 8, 2013 8:00 AM, EDT

Letters: Stop Trafficking, Carriers as Brokers

These Letters to the Editor appear in the April 8 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Stop Trafficking

I have been feeling a calling to do what I can to help stop and raise awareness against human trafficking in some way, and today I came across an organization called Truckers Against Trafficking: http://truckersagainsttrafficking.org.

The fact that I am a part of my father’s trucking company, Aberdeen Express Inc., brings this topic to me in a way that personalizes it, and I may be able to help. After watching their informative video and reading more about the nonprofit and statistics, I can see how raising awareness with truckers and all organizations and media affiliated with the field can help in a huge way.

I am curious to know if your organizations are familiar with Truckers Against Trafficking and how small companies like ours can help. I am just coming across this information and hope that if you are, too, you’ll explore it further as well.

Melissa Scalia

Manager of Administration

Aberdeen Express Inc.

Aberdeen, Ohio

Carriers as Brokers

Editor’s Note: This letter refers to the March 18 “Opinion” by David Dwinell, in which he said a section of the new transportation funding law amounts to a new “tax” on carriers. Dwinell said, “Most freight today . . . is brokered not only when a shipper enters an agreement with a licensed broker but also when one authorized motor carrier ‘hires’ another authorized motor carrier to haul cargo in its place. Many, if not most, of the motor carriers engaging in licensed brokerage are private carriers . . . [who] rely to an extent on for-hire carriers to get their products to market. If you are now engaged in one of these unlicensed brokering arrangements, you need to be aware that after Oct. 1, the practice will be illegal . . . and could result in a fine of $10,000 per load.”

I read with great interest the Opinion piece by David Dwinell regarding MAP-21 (3-18, p. 9).

I was slightly overwhelmed when I read the article. So, I took the time to read page 423 of the law — short, boring and with absolutely no clarity, as you would expect.

I do have a few questions that you probably need a room full of lawyers to answer.

And there is something that needs to be said that I hope Congress remembers when the next Superstorm Sandy or Hurricane Ike comes around.

Listen up, Congressmen and Senators: When a customer asks for more than a small company like ours can deliver — such as needing fuel delivered into areas affected by hurricanes, floods and the like — we willingly take on the task, at no profit to us, of finding other carriers to assist in the task.

We paid those other carriers and billed back our customer — as a courtesy to our customer — as part of our customer service and our desire to help out those in times of need.

As you have been told before when you complained about no trucks willing to go into affected areas, we have to service the customers we have. But we do make every effort to help. Under the terms of MAP-21, we now would have to tell the customer that we cannot help them.

I get it that is a direct impact of MAP-21. I don’t like it, but I get it. Just make sure you remember that you made it impossible for us to help.

Now, here are a few questions for the lawyers and my fellow carriers.

We are a petroleum hauler, so we don’t deal in the world described by Mr. Dwinell. We rarely have backhauls in our industry. But that does not mean we don’t deal with companies that have their own trucks and have their own motor carrier authority that are set up as a common carrier.

How about companies like Wal-Mart, Publix and Ingles? They have their own trucks. They even have their own gas stations. But they don’t haul gasoline. Do they have to become brokers?

Let’s go a step further to Love’s or Pilot Truck Stops. They have their own petroleum tankers. They are an interstate common carrier. But they use other petroleum carriers for their overflow business. Will they have to set up a brokerage company, as Mr. Dwinell infers, one that will operate just on those days when they need outside assistance?

How about BP, Shell, Sunoco, Chevron or any of the major oil companies? They have their own trucks — not in every city or state, but they have some. Do they have to set up a brokerage business that their dispatch centers send their overflow business to so the brokerage firm can then “broker” out the loads to a petroleum hauler?

And now the scary one for those of you who utilize owner-operators. Your company contracts with an owner-operator on a permanent basis — his tractor, your trailer and your freight — and he hauls under your authority 52 weeks a year. But that owner-operator still has, but doesn’t use, his own operating authority from years ago. Does that make you a broker?

And my last question is just for the lawyers: When a trucking company with common carrier authority has diesel fuel delivered to its transportation yard, the company doesn’t actually haul it. It contracts with a hazardous materials carrier like Georgia Tank Lines to haul it.

Does that mean the trucking company has to become a broker in order to contract with us to get its fuel hauled? If it doesn’t become a broker, and I haul for the company anyway, is Georgia Tank Lines subject to the $10,000 fine as one of the “corporate entities involved”?

Deborah Latham

President

Georgia Tank Lines

Doraville, Ga.