Head of Largest Broker Group Weighs in on DOJ Investigation, “They Won’t Find Anything”
BROKERS FIGHT BACK: In part 1 of Transportation Nation Network’s exclusive two-part interview with Robert Voltmann, CEO of the Transportation Intermediaries Association, he weighs in on the newly launched United States Department of Justice investigation into alleged freight broker price fixing and collusion.
Plus, Voltmann responds to claims that brokers are price gouging truckers amid the COVID-19 pandemic and more.
Alexandria, VA – The head of the largest association representing third party logistics (3PL) companies is speaking out about a newly launched U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation and fighting back against allegations that freight brokers are engaging in price fixing and collusion.
Robert Voltmann, CEO of the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA), has experienced market downturns, and the freight rate debate that inevitably follows, many times before.
However, even he admits, we are now in unprecedented territory.
In order to put our exclusive interview with Mr. Voltmann into proper context, let’s first take a look at how we got here.
How did we get here?
An outraged and determined group of small business truckers descended on Washington D.C. on May 1 as part of “MayDay” demonstrations in cities around the nation to protest low rates being offered by freight brokers during the COVID-19 national emergency.
Fueling their anger was a series of social media videos made by New Jersey trucker Rick Santiago for the purpose of exposing alleged unscrupulous business practices of freight brokers.
The controversial videos quickly went viral within the grassroots trucking community.
Read more about that HERE.
It wasn’t long before the protesting truckers, whose bobtail trucks lined Constitution Avenue near the South Lawn of the White House, caught the attention of the most powerful person in the world: the President of the United States.
After a week of protests, President Donald Trump spoke specifically about the issue during an appearance on Fox News.
In response to a question about whether freight brokers were price gouging truckers, Mr. Trump made an assertion that Voltmann says “could not be further from the truth.”
“Oh they are price gouged,” the President said. “We’re going to take care of that.”
Voltmann wasted no time in pushing back against President Trump’s allegation and released a statement a short time later refuting the claim.
Click HERE to read more about what Voltmann said in response to President Trump.
Calls for an Investigation
On April 28, ten days before President Trump made his emphatic remark about brokers, the Small Business in Transportation Coalition (SBTC) was the first trucking group to ask the DOJ to investigate “large third party intermediaries” for possible “antitrust activity and/or illegal price-fixing.”
It didn’t take long for some D.C. rally leaders to join in and also demand that DOJ launch a probe.
On May 13, President Trump directed his Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to meet with truckers on the street still protesting in our nation’s capital.
Meadows told the group he would have U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr look into the matter.
Then, earlier this week, the DOJ officially opened an investigation.
The case has been assigned to New Jersey U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito with the DOJ Antitrust Division, and is expected to probe possible violations of the 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act, which criminalizes corporate collusion for the purpose of price fixing.
Transportation Nation Network (TNN) has spoken to multiple people who have already been interviewed as part of the investigation.
On Wednesday, Meadows and Jim Mullen, Acting Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) met with two representatives of the D.C. protest at the White House.
According to multiple people present, Meadows also confirmed a DOJ investigation is ongoing.
“They won’t find anything”
In response to the news the DOJ had opened an investigation, Voltmann told TNN on Wednesday the TIA and its more than 1,700 member companies have nothing to hide.
“The third-party logistics industry is a $260 billion subset of the $1 trillion U.S. logistics system, with thousands of companies competing with each other every day to ensure that goods and services are transported to their destinations across the country in the most efficient and effective way possible,” he explained. “The Department of Justice has always been one of the most pro-competitive federal agencies. They will see the industry for what it is, competitive, market driven, and transparent.”
In an exclusive interview with Voltmann last week, while the cloud of a possible investigation loomed heavy in the air, he remained steadfastly confident that no antitrust violations exist to be found.
“We’ve not done anything,” he said. “Let the Justice Department investigate. They won’t find anything.”
Voltmann was adamant that, “If the Justice Department wants to investigate, our books are open.”
“We know there’s no price gouging going on”
Anecdotal reports of brokers gouging small business truckers on rates and earning margins of more than 60 percent in some cases have filled social media in recent weeks as the COVID-19 recession worsened.
As freight volumes plummeted, so too did the rates in many cases.
Voltmann contends such claims of gouging are simply false.
“We know there’s no price gouging going on. It’s the marketplace. Come on! They (critics) are either living under a rock or it’s made up.”
In fact, Voltmann says it’s brokers who are getting undercut in the current market.
“I have a member who’s been servicing a shipper for three years, the shipper called them and said, ‘You’re doing a great job, but I just had a motor carrier cut your rate by 60 percent.’ That’s this market that we’re in. No one is gouging. No one is getting fat.”
PART II NOW AVAILABLE
We still have much, much more of our exclusive interview with Mr. Voltmann.
In Part II, he takes on the growing furor over rate transparency and warns critics who are calling for more regulation and strict enforcement of the now famous 49 CFR 371.3 provision to be careful what they wish for.
He explains why it would be devastating to small business truckers.
Plus, don’t for a second think the TIA and its members are not fighting back in the halls of Congress and with regulators.
Voltmann reveals what they are telling U.S. leaders in response to the recent attacks, and much more.
Click HERE to read part II now.