Apart from the day-to-day tasks, a freight broker must regularly put in efforts to maintain relationships with carriers and shippers, market your business, network with other brokers, and — of course — work on developing your services. No wonder compliance can be such a challenge.
Yet, staying on top of freight broker compliance requirements, such as the Food Safety Rules recently adopted, or renewing your surety bond on time, is essential. Failing to do so can cost you time, money and other resources.
Read on for a list of some of the main compliance requirements you need to be aware of when doing business as a freight broker.
Freight Broker Compliance Requirements
The main compliance requirements which every freight broker must be acquainted with from the start are set out in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 371 - Brokers of Property. The CFR spells out a number of general requirements for brokers to comply with, along with a number of special rules for household goods brokers.
The general requirements that brokers must comply with can be summed up as an obligation to keep records of transactions, avoid misrepresentation, not charge carriers in specific instances, and correctly account for their revenues and expenses.
Read on below for a brief explanation of each of these requirements. You can also find a detailed explanation of these in the freight broker compliance guide from Lance Surety Bonds.
1. Keeping Records
The CFR requires brokers to keep detailed records of all transactions they have for a period of three years. Such records need to include the name and address of the consignor, the motor carrier, the bill of lading, and the amount of money received by the broker in return for their services. These records must also be available to be reviewed by anyone who has been part of such a transaction.
2. Avoiding Misrepresentation
According to §371.7 of the CFR, freight brokers have a duty to avoid misrepresenting themselves as performing the services of a carrier in any way. Any advertisement conducted by a broker needs to clearly state that they perform brokerage services. Brokers are also required to perform and offer services only in the name they are registered with at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
3. Not Charging Carriers
Brokers are not allowed to charge carriers for services in which the broker owns or has an interest in the shipment being transported by carriers. This also applies to instances in which brokers own or are owned by the shipper, and can exercise control over the shipment. Brokers are also not allowed to offer or give anything of value to shippers apart from inexpensive marketing materials.
4. Correct Accounting
Finally, according to §371.13, brokers must also properly account for their expenses and revenues in instances in which they engage in other forms of business. Revenues and expenses that are part of the brokerage services offered must be clearly distinguished and separated from the rest of the revenues and expenses or must be allocated on an equitable basis when they are shared.
5. Rules for Household Goods Brokers
The CFR also includes a whole section on special rules for household goods brokers. In summary, this section addresses questions related to:
Since these rules are at times quite detailed, household goods brokers are advised to take the time to read Subpart B of Part 371 of the CFR, and familiarize themselves with it thoroughly.
Food Safety Rules
An important rule that freight brokers need to comply with as well is the Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food Rule which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued in mid-2016. The rule became effective on April 6, 2017 for shippers and brokers with more than 500 employees or carriers with $27.5m in annual receipts or more. It will become effective for the remaining (majority) of shippers, carriers and brokers on April 6, 2018.
While the bulk of this rule is addressed to shippers and carriers, brokers too are required to comply with it, due to the language of the rule, which in its definition of “shipper” also includes freight brokers. The rule includes four general areas of compliance: the vehicles and transportation equipment; the transportation operations; the training of employees; and record-keeping.
The role of brokers in complying with these rules will be to make sure that all their employees are familiar with them in detail. In turn, employees who work with shippers and carriers will need to make sure to check or request that such partners are in compliance with these rules. According to the FDA, brokers also need to establish clear procedures and policies about how they will secure such compliance.
Since the Final Rule may be complex in its requirements and recommendations, the FDA has recently also created a “Small Entity Compliance Guide.” The document is recommended for brokers who have to meet the April 6, 2018 compliance deadline and are in need of further directions.
Yearly Bond Renewal
A final, but very important compliance requirement is the yearly bond renewal for freight brokers. While this may seem straightforward, there are often delays around some bond renewal dates such as Oct. 1. This is due to the large number of brokers who had to increase their bond amounts around Oct. 1, 2013, when the FMCSA mandated that a larger amount was needed.
Such delays, as well as simply forgetting to renew your bond, can lead to missing the deadline and having your license suspended by the FMCSA. For this reason, sureties typically send out reminders at least 60 days before the renewal deadline, and sometimes even earlier.
The best way to make sure you don't get caught up in delays or forget about renewing is to renew as soon as you are reminded by your surety. In this way, the surety will have enough time to process your renewal application and forward your bond to the FMCSA on time.
Resources: Lance Surety Bond Associates
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