Bill takes aim at curbing 'unjust and unreasonable' fees charged to motor carriers at ports

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Updated Jun 16, 2022
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In a move that American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear said "has been a long time coming,” legislators late Monday passed the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022.

“This bill provides important tools to address unjustified and illegal fees collected from American truckers by the ocean shipping cartel – fees that have contributed to the shipping lines raking in $150 billion in profits just last year," Spear added. "Those fees hurt American motor carriers and consumers, helping to drive record inflation."

The bill directs the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) to establish rules prohibiting ocean common carriers and marine terminal operators from adopting and applying "unjust and unreasonable" demurrage and detention fees, and authorizes the FMC to initiate investigations of an ocean common carrier's fees or charges and apply enforcement measures, when appropriate.

In his State of the Union address, President Biden in March called on Congress to address ocean carriers’ high prices, citing rising ocean shipping costs as a major contributing factor to increased costs passed on to American families. "During the pandemic, ocean carriers increased their prices by as much as 1,000%," Biden said Monday evening. "And, too often, these ocean carriers are refusing to take American exports back to Asia, leaving with empty containers instead."

The House passed the bill 369-42 Monday, following passage in the Senate by voice vote March 31.

“This is the first significant change to ocean shipping regulations in more than two decades – a period of time when the industry has been shaped into a cartel of 10 foreign-owned companies who have exercised a tremendous amount of power over American truckers and consumers,” said ATA Intermodal Motor Carrier Conference Director Jonathan Eisen. “Thanks to this bipartisan legislation, those carriers will no longer be able to charge truckers exorbitant and illegal detention and demurrage fees, increasing efficiency and reducing costs across the supply chain.”

Jason Cannon has written about trucking and transportation for more than a decade and serves as Chief Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. A Class A CDL holder, Jason is a graduate of the Porsche Sport Driving School, an honorary Duckmaster at The Peabody in Memphis, Tennessee, and a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Reach him at [email protected]