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'United to fight cheap freight': Owner-ops, small fleets plan slow roll around Indianapolis

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Several groups of owner-operators and small fleet owners are joining forces to organize a slow-roll protest around Indianapolis on Wednesday, May 17.

The grassroots effort, emerging mostly from the Indian-/Punjabi-American community, is hoping to stimulate awareness around low freight rates and a lack of transparency into brokered freight transactions. One of the protest’s organizers, Narinder Johal, said the effort began with “a couple of guys from here in Indiana and in California” who “started spreading the message out to our brothers.”

This is just the latest in a number of pushes from within trucking for meaningful enforcement of or improvement in transparency regulations. Earlier this month, the Truckers Movement for Justice group held a demonstration in Washington, D.C., and met with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration officials to call for improved pay for drivers and in favor of similar transparency improvements. FMCSA in March also signaled that it is moving forward on a rulemaking in response to a petition from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association to the agency to amend regulation 371.3(c) potentially to require brokers automatically disclose records of the transaction within 48 hours of completion of a brokered load. 

Owner-operator Johal noted he's been an owner-operator for 27 years and said the Indiana effort has grown to include many groups of truckers. “We are one,” he said. “We stand on one platform and listen to each other.”

Johal said brokers don’t want to hear owner-operators’ complaints about the rates they are getting, so the protest is to “let them know that we have united to fight cheap freight." 

Wahab Chaudry, the owner of a small fleet based in North Carolina, is also helping organize the effort and said he is seeing rates as low as 90 cents a mile from brokers. “They want us to move this stuff for free,” he said. Most recent rate averages, as shown in the chart below, illustrate the sinking spot market.