Truckers seek $1.8B from ocean carriers for alleged chassis overcharges

container chassis

The American trucking industry has filed a cease-and-desist request with the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) over what it says are ocean container carriers distorting the cost of chassis usage.

The American Trucking Associations’ Intermodal Motor Carriers Conference (IMCC) filed the complaint against the Ocean Carrier Equipment Management Association (OCEMA) and 10 of its ocean carrier members with the FMC on Monday.

The complaint also calls for the OCEMA and members to pay the trucking industry damages of up to $1.8 billion to resolve overcharges for chassis use.

OCEMA was formed in 1990 by the ocean carriers to better manage chassis at high-traffic container ports and intermodal hubs. In 2006, OCEMA developed Consolidated Chassis Management to adopt regional equipment pools to give truckers “freedom of chassis choice.” 

However, truckers allege OCEMA’s chassis-use model has deteriorated since 2009, when ocean carriers began selling off their chassis to third-party owners. While OCEMA continues to manage some regional pools, IMCC alleges the equipment association compels third-party chassis providers to undercharge ocean carriers for carrier container haulage and make up the difference by overcharging truckers for chassis used in merchant container haulage.

“For more than a decade, these foreign-owned companies have worked together to take advantage of hard-working American trucking companies,” said Bill Sullivan, ATA’s executive vice president for advocacy, in a press release. 

“By denying truckers choice of equipment providers at port and inland locations, these unscrupulous companies have been forcing American truckers and American consumers to subsidize their costs to the tune of nearly $1.8 billion — over the last three years alone,” he added.

In its complaint, IMCC said OCEMA’s actions violate the Shipping Act and the FMC should use its enforcement authority to stop it. 

IMCC had hoped to avoid legal action by sending a cease-and-desist letter to OCEMA and to the ocean carriers in May. The trucking group said OCEMA failed to address the alleged violations that were raised.

The FMC confirmed it has received the IMCC’s complaint and is starting a docket on the matter, an agency spokesman said. 

American Shipper attempted to reach Jeffrey Lawrence, OCEMA’s executive director and general counsel, for comment before publication of this article. 

However, Lawrence told Transport Topics that OCEMA will “oppose this lawsuit vigorously.”

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Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper articles by Chris Gillis.