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November 29, 2014 2:00 PM, EST

FMCSA to Seek Input on Increasing Minimum Insurance Levels

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on Nov. 28 published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking on increasing the minimum insurance levels for carriers and brokers.

Instead of specifying a proposed minimum insurance level, the notice instead asks 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.

The ANPRM also asks: “What percentage of fleets, based on size and the type of operation of the carrier [passenger, property, hazmat] 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 in April it would 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.

The agency will take comments on the ANPRM for 90 days after the publication date.

FMCSA is also seeking comments on issues besides the minimum levels of financial responsibility for motor carriers, it said in the ANPRM.

The agency wants more information from freight brokers on the implementation of the requirement that took effect last year that required them to have $75,000 in minimum liability coverage.

Information is also being sought on whether the insurance for Mexican carriers authorized to run in the United States is comparable to that for U.S. carriers, and on the self-insurance program that FMCSA maintains for U.S. carriers.

The Obama administration has suggested repealing the program, saying few carriers use it and that it has not greatly enhanced safety.