Jason McDaniel | Bulk Transporter
Carbon Express founder Steve Rush, center, talks to Darron Eschle, Andrews Logistics chairman and CEO, at right, during the 2022 National Tank Truck Carriers Annual Conference in San Diego, Calif.

Rush joins FMCSA’s fight against ‘predatory’ leasing practices

May 3, 2023
Carbon Express founder, past National Tank Truck Carriers chairman joins newly appointed nine-member Truck Leasing Task Force

When Steve Rush sold his tank truck company to Kenan Advantage Group last year, he vowed to continue advocating for professional truck drivers, who he maintains too often are exploited, and that’s exactly what he’s doing.

The 79-year-old Carbon Express founder is among the first nine members of the newly formed Truck Leasing Task Force (TLTF) revealed this week by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Chartered by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the TLTF will evaluate lease agreements in the industry, and their potential safety and financial impacts on owner-operators.

“I am absolutely pro-owner operator,” Rush, who served as the 2010-11 National Tank Truck Carriers chairman, told Bulk Transporter. “But I’m extremely cautious when it comes to the lease-purchase model because in my opinion, it’s often misused.

“So I’m honored, and excited about the opportunity to meet with this group—and hopefully help straighten this industry out when it comes to lease-purchase.”

TLTF is established as a statutory committee under the authority of Section 23009 of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The group will be tasked with providing best practices to assist drivers in assessing the impacts of a leasing agreement prior to entering into such an agreement, and recommendations on changes to laws to promote fair leasing agreements, FMCSA said in a news release. TLTF’s work will contribute to FMCSA’s efforts to ensure that drivers have access to fair leasing agreements.

See also: KAG acquires driver-centric carrier Carbon Express

“At a time when our country needs truck drivers more than ever, we must do everything we can to support the men and women who work in this vital industry,” Buttigieg said. “The Truck Leasing Task Force is taking a hard look at leasing agreements as part of our effort to ensure every truck driver in this country has good working conditions and can make a good living.”

Many owner-operators lease trucks as a way to enter the industry, FMCSA said, but “leases that contain terms that are inequitable to drivers may discourage safe drivers from continuing to work in the industry.”

Rush, who spent 19 years as a driver before starting Carbon Express in 1983, has long maintained his skepticism with the lease-purchase model, telling Bulk Transporter two years ago it’s one of the greatest culprits in the driver shortage because it passes the cost of operating a trucking company to its most important employees.

“There are a lot of ways we can improve the life of the independent owner-operator—especially as it concerns lease-purchase,” he said.

TLTF members include representatives from labor organizations, motor carriers, consumer protection groups, owner-operators, and other businesses, as well as attorneys and educators. 

The nine members who will serve on FMCSA’s Truck Leasing Task Force are:

  • Tamara Brock, Brock Logistics, and Lewis & Lewis Logistics (independent owner-operator)
  • Paul Cullen, The Cullen Law Firm (attorney)
  • Troy Hawkins, TTOH Consulting & Logistics (independent owner-operator)
  • Jim Jefferson, Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association (consumer protection)
  • Joshua Krause, OTR Leasing (business)
  • Kaitlyn Long, International Brotherhood of Teamsters (labor organization)
  • Steve Rush, Carbon Express (carrier)
  • Lesley Tse, Of counsel to Getman, Sweeney & Dunn (attorney)
  • Steve Viscelli, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania (economic sociologist)

“The Truck Leasing Task Force addresses one of trucking’s great challenges,” FMCSA Administrator Robin Hutcheson said. “Leasing can have a major impact on people choosing trucking as their career, and protecting drivers is of the utmost importance.

“FMCSA is committed to addressing issues that may impact the recruitment and retention of drivers in the trucking industry.”

About the Author

Jason McDaniel

Jason McDaniel, based in the Houston TX area, has more than 20 years of experience as an award-winning journalist. He spent 15 writing and editing for daily newspapers, including the Houston Chronicle, and began covering the commercial vehicle industry in 2018. He was named editor of Bulk Transporter and Refrigerated Transporter magazines in July 2020.