• ITVI.USA
    16,236.890
    -12.660
    -0.1%
  • OTRI.USA
    28.200
    -0.050
    -0.2%
  • OTVI.USA
    16,198.500
    -10.510
    -0.1%
  • TLT.USA
    2.730
    0.000
    0%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.570
    -0.060
    -2.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.170
    0.020
    0.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.240
    -0.080
    -6.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.280
    -0.010
    -0.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    1.720
    0.030
    1.8%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    3.290
    0.070
    2.2%
  • WAIT.USA
    121.000
    1.000
    0.8%
  • ITVI.USA
    16,236.890
    -12.660
    -0.1%
  • OTRI.USA
    28.200
    -0.050
    -0.2%
  • OTVI.USA
    16,198.500
    -10.510
    -0.1%
  • TLT.USA
    2.730
    0.000
    0%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.570
    -0.060
    -2.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.170
    0.020
    0.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.240
    -0.080
    -6.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.280
    -0.010
    -0.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    1.720
    0.030
    1.8%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    3.290
    0.070
    2.2%
  • WAIT.USA
    121.000
    1.000
    0.8%
Driver issuesLogisticsNewsTrucking

TIA’s Voltmann, in video, defends brokers against anger over rates

In an extraordinary video, the head of the largest brokers trade association defended his industry from the online and on-the-highway criticisms from carriers facing increasingly weak freight rates.

Bob Voltmann, president and CEO of the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA), took to YouTube with a roughly three-and-a-half-minute video in which he ripped views of the market that “some snake oil salesman would have you believe.”

“There’s a lot being said about truck rates and brokers today,” Voltmann said. “Brokers don’t set prices. The market does.”

The video comes as some small protests by truckers on highways have called for higher trucking rates. In some of those protests, like the one depicted in the picture accompanying this story, brokers have been portrayed as the villain in the plunge in trucking rates. Online, the vilification of brokers in various Facebook groups geared mostly toward drivers has been ramping up considerably.

Voltmann noted that the U.S. has shut down huge portions of its economy as a result of the pandemic. “And since mid-March, rates have plummeted,” he said. “Nobody is getting pre-virus rates.” It is the belief that some people are getting those higher rates that led to his statement about unidentified “snake oil salesmen.”

Much of the online chatter does involve some drivers saying, in essence, just park your trucks and wait for the rates to come back. Voltmann addresses this concept while talking about how rates are set in a market he describes as “huge, fractured and incredibly transparent.”

“Shippers, like all buyers, want to get the lowest price possible,” Voltmann says in the video. 

“They know there is not enough freight to fill all the trucks. Shippers and brokers offer rates to probe the market. Shippers do it to brokers, and brokers do it to carriers.”

If the market doesn’t go through what economists call “clearing” at the numbers in the “probe,” higher numbers will be discussed. “If carriers don’t accept the rate, shippers and brokers will offer higher rates until the load is accepted,” Voltmann said. “That’s the free market economy that allows owner-operators and small carriers to operate.”

In a phone interview with FreightWaves, Voltmann conceded that the video “isn’t the type of thing I normally do. But these are not ordinary times.”

As a result of low rates, Voltmann said smaller carriers, like independent owner-operators or small firms, “are lashing out at my members. I thought this was something that was needed to put out there.” He described his arguments in the video as “economics 101.”

Voltmann also said TIA had been receiving phone calls from their members “looking for positive news or industry things they could point to.”

“Rates are down, margins are down across the board,” he said. “No one in America is fat, dumb and happy right now.”

The irony of the video is that it comes as there are some signs that the market may be turning. According to the weekly data on rates published by SONAR and supplied by Truckstop.com, rates have taken an upturn.

For example, the Dallas to Atlanta lane posted a per-mile rate of $1.55 on March 22. It dropped to $1.15 on April 19 but a week later, in the most recent update, it was $1.30.

Similarly, the Los Angeles to Seattle late was $2.26 per mile on March 22, dropped to $1.57 per mile on April 19 and rose to $1.70 in the most recent update.

Voltmann cited the TIA 3PL market report. He said in the latest edition of that internally generated report, which comes out quarterly, brokers reported their average margin was 16%. “That means that if the shippers pay $1,000 for a load, the brokers keep $160 or 16% to cover their costs in manning a sales force to get the load and find the carrier, and their investment in technology to manage the shipper’s load and their profit,” Voltmann said. 

In the economics of that transaction laid out by the TIA chief, the carrier gets $840, “84 percent of the gross margin to cover their costs of equipment, maintenance and profit.”

“The motor carrier gives up that $160 so they don’t have to have their own sales force and their own investment in technology to manage the shipper’s load,” Voltmann said.

And in a statement sure to spark some friction with carriers who are already angry, Voltmann said there exists a “yin and a yang between the brokers and the carriers. Neither can survive without the other.”

A recent post on the popular Rate Per Mile Masters group on Facebook lays out where the two sides of the debate are coming from. A broker posted a question: “If you feel that you are getting ripped off by the broker then why not go to the shipper and let them know how much their broker is paying you? Ask them if they think the broker is making a fair profit off of them.”

And while there was plenty of grumbling in response to that, but in some cases sort of an agreement, the question was raised about why in a technology age, brokers are even needed — a question that comes up about all middlemen as technology advances. “My question has always been, WHY [his emphasis] do we “need” a middleman eating up double digit amounts of what would have been a fair rate?” one commenter wrote. “In the age of internet, all shippers should be able to post their own loads and pay a carrier directly.”

The full video can be seen here.

Tags

John Kingston

John has an almost 40-year career covering commodities, most of the time at S&P Global Platts. He created the Dated Brent benchmark, now the world’s most important crude oil marker. He was Director of Oil, Director of News, the editor in chief of Platts Oilgram News and the “talking head” for Platts on numerous media outlets, including CNBC, Fox Business and Canada’s BNN. He covered metals before joining Platts and then spent a year running Platts’ metals business as well. He was awarded the International Association of Energy Economics Award for Excellence in Written Journalism in 2015. In 2010, he won two Corporate Achievement Awards from McGraw-Hill, an extremely rare accomplishment, one for steering coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the other for the launch of a public affairs television show, Platts Energy Week.

42 Comments

  1. I’m finding it hard to understand what the complaint from the drivers are? It’s a open market, if you don’t like the rate don’t take the load. If the broker can’t cover the load then the rate will go up. If you don’t like that drivers out there are moving freight for less than you would, get mad at the driver [or maybe learn how / why they are able to move the freight at those costs].

    For those that want transparency in regards to seeing what a broker is getting from a shipper; what are you talking about? Now you want your workplace regulated in regards to a minimum that drivers should be paid? Great, then let’s also put a maximum that a driver can get paid and in addition you will be forced to take the load given to you, regardless since you are protected on the downside and on the upside – what a ridiculous discussion.

      1. Don’t take the load if you don’t like the rate. Simple economics really, no one is pointing a gun to your head forcing you to take a load at 70 cents a mile. You can sit on here and cry and whine all you want but as all data has shown Brokers DO NOT set the market rates the shippers themselves as well as the free market economy does. I am always fair with my Carriers and have lost money on loads to make sure the Carrier got a fair rate but I’ve never had the ability nor the need to FORCE a driver to take a load. Your insults are falling on deaf ears as it is YOU who has the ability to accept the offered Rate not the Brokers. Nice try though.

  2. Don’t take the load if you don’t like the rate. Simple economics really, no one is pointing a gun to your head forcing you to take a load at 70 cents a mile. You can sit on here and cry and whine all you want but as all data has shown Brokers DO NOT set the market rates the shippers themselves as well as the free market economy does. I am always fair with my Carriers and have lost money on loads to make sure the Carrier got a fair rate but I’ve never had the ability nor the need to FORCE a driver to take a load. Your insults are falling on deaf ears as it is YOU who has the ability to accept the offered Rate not the Brokers. Nice try though.

  3. I actually bid and ship directly for shippers, there were several lanes that we could not handle that we had to turn down after being the best bidder on the lane. Service, price. I have worked for this company for over 15 years. Last week we had a truck in MO that we did not have a load for. A broker had a load on a lane I had to give back to my shipper. I know the brokers bid was higher than mine in the contract. The shipper did not cancel the contract. The offering price to the trucking company was over 50% less than the lane’s rate. Mr.Bob Voltmann are you on crack?

Close