Minimum liability insurance increase to significantly burden truckers’
According to the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) fleet insurance costs rose 12% between 2017 and 2018, the second fastest year-over-year growth rate. The Institute also found that, “Given the substantial insurance cost increases over the last several years, it appears that the industry has reached a ceiling in its ability to continuously cover annual double-digit increases in insurance premiums”.
AND… here we go again, yet another regulatory overreach and a potential significant insurance increase under the guise of safety. This one we’ve seen more than once before – but the numbers still don’t seem to support the need.
A provision to increase the minimum level of liability insurance for truckers has reappeared once again in the “INVEST in America Act” (H.R. 3864) – the House’s version of a surface transportation bill. The provision is gently titled “Updating the required amount of insurance for motor vehicles”. The “Update” would require the minimum amount of insurance for motor carriers to be raised from $750,000 to $2,000,000 (167%) and to be adjusted for inflation every 5 years.
Supporters of the legislation claim that the increase is modest and necessary as it has not been increased since implemented in the 1980s.
In 2018, FMCSA data shows that there were approximately 560,000 crashes with large trucks and buses. Of those, 77.5% were property damage only, 21.6% were injury-related and 0.8% were fatal occurrences. Of those crashes, it is estimated that 0.6% may have not provided enough insurance to adequately compensate the other party(ies).It is unclear where the safety benefit comes into play with this “Update”, but supporters of the legislation point the finger at insurers for not better qualifying carriers. They allege that at higher liability levels, insurers would have more at stake and could be incentivized to make greater efforts to screen out unqualified carriers and adjust insurance rates accordingly. The assumption being that in doing so, they would price the bad carriers off of the roads.
Those in favor of the legislation also point to a 2013 report by the DOT which concluded that “at current levels, liability insurance does not appear to be functioning effectively as catastrophe coverage”. Notwithstanding those arguments, opponents of the legislation claim that doubling and tripling of the minimum insurance requirement is arbitrary and dangerous and would dramatically drive up insurance premiums that would likely cripple many carriers, increase delivery rates which increase the cost of goods to consumers with little to no safety benefit. Additionally, they allege this effort is less about safety and more about the support trial lawyers have in Congress.
In a June 9 full committee markup of the legislation, there was an amendment to strike the insurance provision introduced by Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill. The amendment failed a voice vote and a recorded vote was requested which also failed 38-30. If you’re not familiar, after an amendment to strike a provision is presented, there is a voice vote that is judged by level of sound (who was the loudest). In this meeting all votes fell mostly along party lines, i.e. regardless of sound the Democrat chair struck down the amendment.
The 19-hour hearing ended with the committee approving the five-year, $547 billion INVEST in America Act. The bill was sent to the House floor for further consideration. Be sure to contact your Representative and give your feedback on this very important issue.