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How to Avoid Trucking Scams

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It’s all too frequent in the world of trucking for carriers to haul a load they believed to be legitimate only to realize later that they’ve been scammed, leaving them unpaid and sometimes with missing cargo.

Unfortunately, many trucking scams and types of freight fraud are on the rise, making it crucial for truckers to know how to avoid trucking scams.

Common trucking scams

To avoid being scammed, carriers and owner-operators should understand the common fraudulent tactics they might encounter. Here are some of the most widespread scams in the current market.

Fuel advances

In cases of fuel advance fraud, scammers impersonate carriers with legitimate details (like MC numbers, personal details, insurance information, etc.) to book loads with brokers. They give brokers a fake bill of lading (BOL) for nonexistent pickups to secure an illegitimate fuel advance. This scam leaves the actual carrier without the necessary funds to cover fuel for the haul.

These types of scams can result in the identity theft of carriers and lost revenue and trust for the brokers who pay fuel advances to the scammers. It can also result in a breakdown of communication as to who is actually hauling the load.

Double brokering

Double-brokering involves transferring a load between freight brokers without the shipper’s knowledge or consent. Bad actors execute double-brokering in an attempt to make easy money, resulting in financial loss for the victimized party or company.

In a legitimate scenario, a broker assigns a load to a carrier, who completes the haul as agreed. Double-brokering happens when the shipper isn’t informed about changes in terms or parties.

Both carriers and brokers can commit double-brokering by:

  1. A carrier accepts a load and passes it to another carrier to meet delivery deadlines. This is illegal without proper notice and authorization, leading to penalties.
  2. A broker giving a load to another broker, who unlawfully transfers it at a lower rate and pockets the difference.

Unauthorized double-brokering results in financial losses and potential legal consequences.

Cargo theft

Cargo theft can happen to any shipment, but high-value loads like household goods, electronics, and food and beverages are targeted most since they can be easily resold. Cargo theft is often the work of organized criminals who use technology to pose as legitimate carriers or brokers to secure a load and then steal the goods while remaining untraceable to law enforcement agencies.

The most common tactics are straight theft and fictitious pickups.

  • Straight theft is when cargo is stolen straight from the carrier at a truck stop or somewhere along the route. Trailers left unattended with no security deterrents are often the most targeted. This type of theft directly impacts carriers, but the consequences are far-reaching.
  • Fictitious pickups are more involved and often include cyber attacks that happen when any information about employees (drivers, warehouse workers, brokers, etc.) is accessed or intercepted by bad actors, often resulting in identity theft. By the time the legitimate driver or company realizes what has happened, the scammers are long gone and often untraceable.

10 ways to avoid trucking scams

Safeguarding yourself and your business against scams is vital. Stay alert to common schemes and rely on preventive measures to protect yourself and your cargo on the road.

1. Use safety precautions when accepting loads.

Do thorough research and vet potential new business partners before working with them. Verify company details and check for legitimate reviews and references. Call the number on the company’s website and ask to speak with the broker you’re working with for additional confirmation. If you’re feeling uncertain about a company’s legitimacy or trustworthiness, it’s best to find another broker to partner with.

2. Review broker creditworthiness and performance ratings.

It’s important to know a broker’s average days-to-pay scores if they have any performance issues, or if there are any other areas of concern when deciding who to partner with. Using tools like Truckstop’s Load Board, you can view a broker’s days-to-pay information, experience factor, credit score, and risk level so you can feel secure with partners you trust.

You should also consider using a reputable, non-recourse factoring company to guarantee payment—even if the broker fails to pay.

3. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Thoroughly scrutinize rates that seem too high or too low and compare the loads to others in the same lane to see if there’s something off. Tools like Rate Insights make it easy by providing accurate, up-to-date, and effective rate comparisons. Incredibly low rates are often the work of scam artists looking to perpetuate a double-brokering scam, so be cautious.

4. Read the fine print.

Always read broker/carrier agreements and rate confirmations in their entirety to ensure you are comfortable with all terms. Pay close attention to any mention of deductions and other verbiage—like “truck ordered not used” and “detention pay” that may prevent you from exercising your right to compensation. Modify terms or conditions in the agreements if needed and send the contract back for renegotiation before signing it.

5. Consider the Hours of Service (HOS) rules.

When entering into an agreement to transport a load, allocate sufficient time for both pickup and delivery. This will help you avoid any breaches of the Hours of Service (HOS) regulations. If you notice any discrepancies in the time provided for moving the load, it may be better to decline the load.

Additionally, pay attention to any specific instructions related to the load, like extra pickups or drop-offs. This will help you prevent delays during loading and unloading, and guarantee that the right cargo is delivered to the correct destination.

6. Plan your route.

It’s important to know the most direct and efficient route to your designated delivery location so you can avoid high-risk areas that have higher rates of cargo theft. A pre-planned route also makes it easier to identify secure parking locations where you can safely take breaks or stay overnight. Tools like Fuel Desk help you plan your routes while also identifying safe and cost-effective fuel stops.

7. Answer check calls and use load tracking.

Most brokers require daily check calls from truck drivers to confirm that the loads they have en route are on schedule. Answering these daily calls ensures that you’re frequently in touch with your broker and keeps lines of communication open.

Add GPS tracking to the cargo and the trailer or hauling device to monitor movement from pick-up to delivery. Load tracking increases visibility and makes it more difficult for scammers to tamper with the load or divert it to an unauthorized location.

8. Always get detention time documentation.

Drivers typically give the shipper or receiver an industry standard time of two hours (unless otherwise stated and agreed upon) before detention time sets in. It is the driver’s responsibility to track and provide documented proof of arrival and wait times by having an authorized individual at the pick-up and delivery facilities sign, date, and time-stamp their arrival.

Documenting your detention time creates a record of your wait times at a specific location and proves when your cargo was in the possession of a particular shipper or carrier, which can protect you in the event of fraudulent charges or cargo theft, or tampering.

9. Provide load delivery and payment paperwork right away.

Upon delivery of each load, immediately provide all required paperwork—including your invoice—to the broker. This avoids delays in the contracted payment terms and provides proof of delivery that will protect you from false claims. Your delivery paperwork can also serve as a solid paper trail in the event of any disputes, false allegations, or fraudulent claims, while also proving that you fulfilled your contractual obligations as agreed upon.

10. Report days-to-pay on Truckstop.

Report your days-to-pay experience on every load you haul to Truckstop by clicking the “Report a Broker” tab from the top right corner of the load board. From there, select “Days-to-Pay,” and complete the easy online form. Your information will become part of the broker’s published credit score calculation and increases the accuracy of the broker credit scores we provide. This information helps protect carriers from choosing fraudulent brokers and boosts the visibility of reputable brokers that are worth working with.

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