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FMCSA reopens broker definition rulemaking for MATS listening session

March 15, 2023
Federal rule-makers are looking at how technology has changed freight brokerage. The move to redefine brokers is part of the 2021 infrastructure law. FMCSA plans to hold an in-person session in Louisville on March 31.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is seeking more input on its definitions of broker and bona fide agents. The agency recently extended the public comment period for its interim guidance on the topic and will host a listening session during the upcoming Mid-America Trucking Show.

Placeholder definitions were issued late last year to comply with the 2021 Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act before an initial call for feedback was issued in November. FMCSA announced in March that is reopening the comment period for its interim guidance of Definitions of Broker and Bona Fide Agents.

See also: Freight volumes, spot rates fall in February

The interim guidance informs the public and regulated entities about FMCSA's interpretation of the definitions of broker and bona fide agents as it relates to all brokers of transportation by commercial motor vehicle, according to a March 8 notice

Last fall, FMCSA noted it must evaluate how technology has changed freight brokerage, the roles of bona fide agents, and other parts of the freight transportation industry. After initial consideration of public comments received, FMCSA provided clarification on its interpretation of the definitions of broker and bona fide agents, in addition to meeting other criteria required by the 2021 infrastructure law

While the interim guidance was effective immediately upon publication, FMCSA sought comments on the interim guidance and said it would issue final guidance by June 16. FMCSA is reopening the comment period in anticipation of hosting a public listening session during MATS, which draws drivers and owner-operators to the annual show in Louisville later this month. 

FMCSA will host the session at 10 a.m., March 31, during MATS. Registration is open for anyone wishing to attend the session. 

How FMCSA defines bona fide agents

FMCSA determined that representing more than one motor carrier does not necessarily mean one is a broker rather than a bona fide agent, according to the November filing. “Any determination will be highly fact specific and will entail determining whether the person or company is engaged in the allocation of traffic between motor carriers,” the agency wrote.

FMCSA is mandated to clarify its definition of bona fide agents, according to the federal regulations code.

How FMCSA defines the role of dispatch services

The infrastructure law also requires FMCSA to examine the role of dispatch services in the transportation industry and whether those services could be considered brokers or bona fide agents. 

The roughly 80 stakeholders who submitted comments made it “clear there is no universally accepted definition of ‘dispatch service,’ nor did Congress define the term in the [infrastructure law's] provision mandating this guidance,” according to the FMCSA filing.

But the agency said dispatch services have three common features:

  1. They work exclusively for motor carriers, not for shippers. 
  2. They source loads for motor carriers. 
    1. They perform additional services for motor carriers that are unrelated to sourcing shipments.
      About the Author

      Josh Fisher | Editor-in-Chief

      Editor-in-Chief Josh Fisher has been with FleetOwner since 2017, covering everything from modern fleet management to operational efficiency, artificial intelligence, autonomous trucking, regulations, and emerging transportation technology. He is based in Maryland. 

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