Brokers push back against Trump’s price-gouging claims

Representatives of the truck brokerage industry swiftly refuted President Donald Trump’s allegations of price gouging against small-business truck drivers after the President took sides with the drivers on the issue.

Trump, who tweeted his support for the drivers during last week’s “May Day” demonstration rally held by truckers near the White House, maintained that they are being “price gouged” when asked today (May 8) about the allegations – and what he plans to do about it – by a co-host of the television show Fox & Friends.

“All they want is to be treated fairly, and we’re going to treat them fairly. They’re great people, and they’re successful, they have these big beautiful trucks, and they want them made in the USA. They’re not asking for much, so we’re going to take care of them.”

Trump added that he “brought my people out to see them” during last week’s demonstration. “I even brought out some red hats for them,” he said.

The Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA), which represents brokers and other third-party logistics companies (3PLs), immediately pushed back. “As the President should know, real estate agents don’t determine the sales price of buildings, the market does. The same is true in trucking,” responded TIA President and CEO Robert Voltmann.

Brokers and 3PLs, he said, “are not price-gouging – there is simply not enough freight to support all of the carriers. In this case, we simply aren’t shipping much of anything and there are too many trucks chasing too little freight. TIA welcomes the opportunity to discuss the situation with the Administration, as well as with all parties involved, in a formal setting – not through completely misconstrued and misrepresented statements across social media and other channels.”

Voltmann pointed out in a separate response that his association’s most recent quarterly market report shows that 3PLs are keeping a 16% gross margin for their service and passing on 84% to the carrier.

While President Trump did not provide details on how he planned “to take care” of the trucker’s allegations of price gouging, he’s limited in his options, according to Donald Baker, senior counsel at the law firm Baker & Miller.

“If there’s any hint that the brokers are cooperating with each other, then you’ve got a price-fixing violation,” Baker told FreightWaves. “I don’t think there’s any credible antitrust violation unless they have some evidence of collusion among the brokers.”

Baker, a former head of the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, said the President has the authority to instruct the Justice Department to investigate. “If he were to do that they would look at it, but I don’t see how they would come up with a violation, based on the evidence,” he said.

Pressuring lawmakers to enforce laws already on the books, however, remains an option. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which represents small-business truckers, wrote to all 535 members of Congress this week seeking enforcement of a regulation requiring brokers to keep records of transactions with motor carriers.

Those records include compensation paid to the broker, the identity of the payer, and “the amount of any freight charges collected by the broker and the date of payment to the carrier.”