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FMCSA rejects 2nd shot at $75,000 truck-broker bond exemption

Petitioner SBTC sought to spark discussion over legitimacy of truck dispatchers

SBTC calls $75,000 bond requirement unfair for small truck brokers. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has again denied a request from a group of truck brokers for an exemption from a $75,000 bond requirement — but the petitioners contend the agency missed the point of their exemption request.

In a notice scheduled to be published on Thursday, the FMCSA said it was denying the Small Business in Transportation Coalition’s (SBTC) five-year exemption request for brokers and freight forwarders with annual revenues below $15 million because it “does not meet the statutory factors” for such an exemption.

In addition, “SBTC fails to show how exempting a large segment of the broker industry from the bond requirement would be in the public interest merely because some entities are currently not complying,” FMCSA stated. “The core public interest implicated in Congress’s imposition of the $75,000 financial security requirement is that motor carriers (and shippers) be paid in the event of broker or freight forwarder non-payment. SBTC’s exemption request, if granted, would undermine that goal.”

It was the second time SBTC has been rejected by FMCSA on the broker bond exemption. SBTC’s predecessor, the Association of Independent Property Brokers and Agents, was denied a similar request in 2015.

SBTC President James Lamb did not expect FMCSA to approve the group’s latest exemption request.

“We filed the application because we wanted to stimulate industry discussions and publicly make a point that has FMCSA failed to follow through on its 2013 promise of a ‘comprehensive enforcement program’ to crack down on illegal brokers, many of whom now call themselves independent ‘dispatchers,’” Lamb stated in a tweet.

“If you make legal brokers get a license and $75k bond, yet allow people to operate illegally as ‘dispatchers,’ then you will be viewed by the public as being nothing more than bureaucratic hypocrites.”

SBTC asserted in its latest petition, filed in September 2019, that unlicensed entities, including motor carriers and dispatch services, are engaging in unfair competition because FMCSA has not enforced the broker licensing requirement.

“We are therefore now asking for all small property brokers and freight forwarders as defined by the [Small Business Administration] for freight transportation arrangement with revenues under $15 million be made exempt for five years to give FMCSA more time” to develop its enforcement program. “Until FMCSA levels the playing field, enforcement against some transportation intermediaries — but not others — constitutes an unlawfully arbitrary and capricious regulatory scheme.”

Watch: Broker earnings in 2021 (11/2/21)

FMCSA received 22 comments on SBTC’s petition, most of which opposed it.

“SBTC’s request would exempt from the bond requirement those brokers who, according SBTC, do not have sufficient resources to readily or cost-effectively obtain a $75,000 bond — and would thus perversely deprive motor carriers of the protection of the Congressionally-mandated bond precisely where it is needed most, in doing business with brokers who turn out to be financially precarious,” commented the American Trucking Associations.

Bond issuer JW Surety Bonds stated that the $75,000 bond required is not a barrier to entry for small or startup truck brokers.

“Surety premium rates remain consistently low and declinations of applicants are primarily limited to freight brokers with previous unpaid claims to prevent bad apples from re-entering the market and burning more carriers,” the company stated in comments opposing the exemption.

“Removing the bond protection which shippers and carriers rely upon would be disastrous and an exemption of the bond requirement would be of greatest benefit to repeat offenders that are regularly in breach of their payment commitments harming carriers.”

Melissa Carbonell, a broker with Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based High End Transport, agreed that the current bond requirement is not a burden on small brokers.

“We have $10,000 in a trust account and only pay $2,500 a year for our broker bond,” Carbonell stated. “Any broker doing more than $1 million a year in business should be able to afford this amount. If they can’t afford the bond, then they are not solvent enough to be getting hundreds of thousands of dollars in credit on the backs of carriers.”

Lamb points out that despite opposition to SBTC’s exemption request, the issue over requiring a $75,000 broker bond will not be adequately resolved until the FMCSA clarifies the definition of a broker. Congress required FMCSA to issue guidance on how brokers and dispatchers operate as part of the bipartisan infrastructure bill that was signed into law in November.

“We’re in favor of the agency defining what a dispatcher is and is not allowed to do, and believe it should be based on established precedent,” Lamb told FreightWaves.

“You can’t be an agent of competing motor carriers. When you have one load and you choose to give it to another carrier you claim to be an agent for, you are leaving one holding the bag, which violates the agent’s fiduciary responsibility under agency law.”

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.



    You’re giving press to this man?

    Do a report on his business practices before deciding that a non-profit would be the next way to take money from people.

  2. Bill

    This is so far down the list of what is wrong, its amazing that people just keep rehashing it, so they don’t have to address the real issues.

    1-Companies like UShip should be subject to a $10,000 fine per load, that they let a broker take from them, since they themselves are a freight brokerage.
    2-All brokers must hold the funds for a load they give a carrier in escrow, before the load starts. 0% of them do this.
    3-Since 911, businesses are supposed to have a physical address, that can be verified. Yet there are dozens of brokerages opened in UPS Stores and virtual offices every month.

    This list could easily have 50 bullet points, before it got to the dispatcher issue. The reality is the bonds don’t protect anyone right now. The only people making money due to bonds, are the attorney’s for the bond companies filing interpleaders. The bond companies MUST be transparent. If there are $3M in loads filed on a bond, and the company just says “we paid out the first $75K that was filed” they MUST be able to show who they paid and when. Otherwise, was anyone paid at all? Who knows. It is ALL a sham.

    It is simple to identify scam brokerages, yet they keep giving the scammers bonds. Because they refuse to spend 30 seconds per application doing homework.

  3. Carlos. Moreno Moreno

    It’s about time government
    Do something about all brokers and shippers
    Ripping truck drivers money’s and time
    But do it not only proves
    Especially chrobinson
    Coyote and all others
    Cr England. Jb hunt
    And other Trucking companies
    Who do brokerage

  4. ar

    “You can’t be an agent of competing motor carriers. When you have one load and you choose to give it to another carrier you claim to be an agent for, you are leaving one holding the bag, which violates the agent’s fiduciary responsibility under agency law.”

    What are these trains? Do trucks just follow other trucks around in circles? A dispatcher can provide multiple lanes to the benefit of the carrier; a broker can provide multiple lanes to the benefit of the shipper. These clowns haven’t worked in transportation a day.

  5. Philip Nenadov

    I think there is a difference between a broker and dispatcher role when defining a broker. Independent dispatchers never handle money for the carrier. The transaction is between the broker and the carrier. Of the hundreds of thousands of carriers, the vast majority of them are 1-2 truck carriers.

    I believe designating the dispatchers with a MC-D license is the answer. They are legal then. And they don’t have to be bonded. Just my thoughts.

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John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.