October 28, 2013

Deceptive Business Practices and UCR

Few things disgust me or get my blood boiling more than seeing other companies using deceptive business practices to prey on the unsuspecting.  And it is so common in the Transportation Industry to see businesses take advantage of people by playing on their fears; using scare tactics and making themselves appear to be the US DOT.  This time of year such lowlifes come out of the woodwork as the government collects the annual Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) fee.  Here are some warning signs to look for so you don’t become a victim.

Use of Fear Tactics

If a company is using fear or trying to make you panic to get you to use them to pay the UCR fee, you should probably run away.  Take a look at this example that one of our clients received from one such shady company.
Subject: 2014 UCR is Now Due… Nov 1st: $1,000 Fines Per Day for Non-Compliance Biennial Reporting
The email is deceptive because the fine they are referring to in the subject line has nothing to do with the 2014 UCR fee, but is a potential fine for not filing your biennial MCS-150 update.  They are trying scare you and imply that if you don’t file the UCR fee with them right now, when it isn’t really due until the end of December, you could end up paying a huge fine.
The reality is there are some states that say they could fine you for not having your UCR filed, but I have never heard of someone actually getting fined for not paying their UCR on time, although I am sure it has probably happened.  The common practice of most states is to stop your truck and not let it move until the UCR fee is paid, which can usually be done in less than an hour and your truck will be released and back on the road again.  The up to $1,000 per day fine mentioned in the subject line of the email is for having an MCS-150 update that is more than two years old.  With that being said, I highly doubt a small motor carrier would ever be levied that high of a fee, it is more likely they will just inactivate your DOT number.
To learn more about the about the changes to and requirements of the biennial update straight from the FMCSA click here.

Wolves In Sheep’s Clothing

It is very common for companies to send out correspondence in the mail or emails that make you think they are the US DOT or FMCSA.  Often those letters will have a very official looking seal.  At the very end or in the fine print of the letter, they will usually say something along the lines of, “Although we are not the DOT we offer DOT Compliance services”.
If a company is using this kind of deceptive tactic they are probably doing other things that are not in your best interest; instead of providing you a truly value added service.

Final notice

Another common thing I see is a letter that has a big bold title that says something along the lines of 2nd notice or Final Notice.  They try to pressure you into acting now.  They will often imply there will be dire consequences or their fee to provide you a service will increase if you don’t act now.
We all know there are important deadlines within the transportation industry for things that need to be taken care of, but such companies use that knowledge and fear to try to get you to use their services which they typically over charge you for.  If you receive something in the mail like what I have described above, go to a source you can trust to see if it is legitimate before you act.  You can always leave a comment on this blog post if you see something that looks fishy and I will be happy to give you my opinion.

Companies You’ve Never Heard Of

There are many shady companies out there who significantly over charge to file the UCR fee on your behalf.  If you relay on another company to file and pay the Unified Carrier Registration, make sure to use someone you know and trust.  It is not that difficult of a task and they should charge you well under $100.00 for the service they provide.  Keep in mind the actual cost of the fee will be added on top of that, which varies by fleet size as outlined below.

Fleet Size   E-Check   Credit Card
0-2  $80.00  $81.60
 3-5  $231.00  $235.62
 6-20 $456.00  $465.12
 21-100  $1,580.00  $1,611.60
 101-1,000 $7,515.00  $7,665.30
1,001-200,000  $73,350.00  $74,817.00

There are too many companies out there who are praying on the innocent and overcharging for the “services” they provide.  If you see something that you are not sure about tell me about it on a comment on this blog post and I will try to shed some light on it.

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