On July 18, U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Penn.) introduced the Safe and Fair Environment on Highways Achieved through Underwriting Levels Act (SAFE-HAUL) to raise the minimum insurance amount required by trucking companies. The current insurance minimum of $750,000 was established by Congress in 1980. The new bill considers the increase in medical care cost since then. It would establish the minimum at $4.4 million. The bill has seven co-sponsors.
“This is a matter of public safety,” said Rep. Cartwright. “Tragically, more than 100,000 people have been killed in commercial vehicle collisions since 1980. This legislation is essential to protecting our nation’s highways and ensuring that victims receive the proper amount of compensation for their losses.”
SAFE-Haul relies on a recent study by the Trucking Alliance, a group made up of seven large fleets, which claims 42 percent of all accident settlements paid by trucking companies between 2005 and 2011 were above the minimum amount of $750,000.
However, both the Owner-Operator and Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) and the American Trucking Associations (ATA) challenge the results of that study. Rather, they say that only one or two percent of truck-involved crashes experienced a claim above the $750,000 minimum. In fact, Todd Spencer of OOIDA calls the Trucking Alliance’s study a bogus one. He says the only results of the bill itself will be that insurance costs will increase for the competition of those in the Trucking Alliance.
In support of the bill, American Association for Justice President Mary Alice McLarty says, “Outdated trucking insurance limits shift the burden of crash costs to injured motorists, taxpayers, medical insurance carriers and Medicare. This legislation is long overdue.”
Sean McNally, spokesman for ATA, agrees with OOIDA’s Spencer and says that only one percent of settlements exceed the minimum requirement. He also adds that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that the average cost of a truck-involved crash during the same time period in the Trucking Alliance study was less than a third of the current minimum limit of $750,000. He believes the Trucking Alliance has some kind of unstated goal in recommending this increase.