June 2, 2017 10:00 AM, EDT

FMCSA Drops Plans to Study Raising Insurance Minimums for Motor Carriers, Brokers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has abandoned its plans to consider an increase in minimum bodily injury and property damage insurance levels for motor carriers, freight forwarders and brokers.

In an announcement on June 2, the agency said that after reviewing comments on its November 2014 advance notice of proposed rule to consider increasing minimum financial responsibility levels it presently has “insufficient data or information to support moving forward” with the  ANPRM.

The ANPRM did not specify insurance levels but asked carriers and brokers to answer dozens of detailed questions — such as what they currently pay in premiums; whether rates are determined by driver, credit or safety history; and whether carriers get discounts for a certain number of vehicles in a fleet.

It also said it intended to explore what percentage of fleets, based on size and the type of operation of the carrier already have liability coverage that exceed the minimum financial responsibility requirement and by how much.

Currently, for most carriers the minimum coverage requirement is $750,000. Those specializing in hazardous materials must have either $1 million or $5 million depending on what they haul.

Those minimum levels, however, have been in place since 1985 and FMCSA said it intended to write a new insurance rule because “inflation has greatly increased medical claims costs and related expenses.”

In the ANPRM the agency cited studies, among them one from Volpe Transportation Systems Center in 2013 that said severe crashes today typically result in more than $1 million in damages.

FMCSA said it received 2,181 public comments in response to the ANPRM.

“Various stakeholders commented, including representatives of motor carriers, insurance companies, broker/freight forwarders, safety advocates, attorneys, drivers and many others. Approximately 120 submissions, including one submission reflecting a petition signed by 11,366 individuals, expressed general support for increasing the minimum levels of financial responsibility for motor carriers without providing a substantive rationale for their opinion,” the withdrawal announcement said.

Approximately 145 commenters expressed general opposition to increasing the minimum levels of financial responsibility for motor carriers without providing a substantive rationale for their opinions.

“Based on the information provided, FMCSA is not able to determine (1) potential increases in insurance premiums associated with increased financial responsibility limits, or (2) the impact of an increase in minimum financial responsibility requirements on insurance company capital requirements set by insurance regulators to ensure there are sufficient reserves to minimize the risk of insolvency and protect consumers,” the June 2 advance Federal Register announcement said.