Broker margins, rates data, transparency: What owner-operators really think

Updated Feb 26, 2024
Lead image -- broker margins and spot rates report survey results
Readers can download Overdrive's owner-operator survey report on the transparency issue and rates data below.

After a contentious debate around brokers' percentage take on spot market loads ended in something of a stalemate -- brokers' data held up to scrutiny, yet owner-operators weren't always convinced -- Overdrive surveyed readers on how they really felt about the so-called "transparency" issue, likewise spot rates indices published by load board services and others. 

Most of the tension springs from federal regulations around brokered-freight transaction records -- carriers are entitled in 49 CFR 373.1 to review those records, including what the shipper paid for the load. Yet all too often brokers hold a trump card: they've gotten carriers to sign that right away in their contract. Late last year, when one owner-operator challenged mega broker TQL's efforts to withhold their records, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration investigators stepped in and helped procure them. The owner-operator then said the records revealed a 44% margin for the broker, far above the average.

As anecdotes like these have piled up through the years, they've focused attention on carriers' difficulty exercising their rights to freight transaction records. That's driven not only owner-operator opinions like those reflected in Overdrive's survey, but also federal attention.

FMCSA may have delayed action on a potential move toward more automated transparency in brokered transactions, and its latest regulatory schedule update didn't even mention action on that front at all. Yet: action is still in the works within the FMCSA, made clear by later clarification sought by Overdrive.

Our survey results are clear, too: Small carriers do care about broker transparency, and bring a healthy dose of skepticism to rates averages on any given lane. If anything, owner-operators seem to pride themselves on arriving at their own singular understanding of the market.

Whether you're a carrier looking for opinion on your side of this argument, a freight tech tinkerer trying to understand the broker-carrier relationship (or divide), or a broker looking to understand your service providers, results shine more light on one of trucking's most important topics. 

Download results in full via the button below.