Federal Truck Leasing Task Force Seeking Help From Truckers

FMCSA Wants to See Examples of Predatory Truck Leasing Agreements but Also Hear About Good Experiences
Truck leasing
Comments submitted in response to a Feb. 16 FMCSA notice will be shared with the task force before its next public meeting, tentatively planned to take place at the Mid-America Trucking Show in late March. (welcomia/Getty Images)

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Federal trucking regulators have requested truckers, especially owner-operators, to assist the agency’s truck leasing task force by providing information on leasing agreements that they believe are unfair.

The task force, specially appointed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, then may use the information at its future meetings and ultimately apply what members learn to shape their findings in a report on predatory lease agreements to the secretary of transportation.

The task force, a requirement of the bipartisan infrastructure law, requires the transportation secretary, in consultation with the labor secretary, to establish the leasing task force to examine the terms, conditions and equability of common truck leasing arrangements, particularly as they impact owner-operators.

The task force already has begun examining maintenance provisions in lease-purchase agreements that they allege can create a predatory revenue stream for motor carriers serving as lessors to owner-operators.

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The task force, which met for five hours last month, began drilling down on contract agreements that they say can make it difficult for owner-operators to pay for maintenance on the vehicles they lease or buy from motor carriers. As part of their mission, task force members have been asked by regulators to examine leasing agreements in the motor carrier industry and determine whether they contain inequitable terms that may affect “the frequency and quality of maintenance performed on subjected vehicles.”

FMCSA said it will accept comments through March 18 and that because the information could be submitted to a public docket, individuals should redact personally identifiable information, such as Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, personal addresses, etc.

The leasing task force will examine leasing issues and submit a report identifying troublesome truck leasing arrangements and offer recommended best practices. Comments submitted in response to a Feb. 16 FMCSA notice will be shared with the task force before its next public meeting, tentatively planned to take place at the Mid-America Trucking Show in late March.

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Although task force members have yet to establish how prevalent such predatory lease-purchase agreements may be, a yearlong study by a U.S. government financial consumer group concluded that there is widespread risk for truckers to be rushed into signing lease-purchase agreements that fail to make clear the costs drivers are agreeing to incur.

Some of the questions from the task force include:

  • Did you have enough time to read and understand the lease agreement?
  • Did you have an opportunity to inspect the equipment in the agreement?
  • Did you receive the history of damages to the vehicle?
  • Was a lease-purchase your only option?
  • Did you have a clear responsibility in case of a major breakdown?

Consistent with the task force’s statutory authority, the group also will examine financing arrangements among entry-level drivers, driver training providers and other involved entities, which may result in new drivers entering the trucking workforce encumbered by outsize debt and inequitable terms for repayment and will identify potential illegal practices to law enforcement or regulators.

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The task force also is asking drivers to identify positive commercial motor vehicle leasing experiences and what separated the good and bad experiences.

“FMCSA is particularly interested in hearing from CMV drivers, lessors of CMVs, trucker organizations, social services organizations, consumer rights and advocacy organizations, plaintiffs’ attorneys, academics and researchers, representatives of labor organizations, and state and local government officials,” the announcement said.

FMCSA will share the information with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a U.S. government agency dedicated to making sure consumers are treated fairly by banks, lenders and other financial institutions.

The DOT has named the CFPB as a technical adviser to the task force.