These Letters to the Editor appear in the Aug. 12 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.
Bill’s Target: Trucking
The proposed bill by Rep. Matt Cartwright to increase the minimum injury and property damage insurance level for trucking companies — known as “SAFE HAUL” — not only raises the bar on congressional cutesy acronyms but also sets a record for promoting a blatant, pro-ambulance-chasing litigation feeding frenzy at the expense of the trucking industry, trucking companies and professional drivers.
The bill calls for a nearly 500% increase in the insurance requirement, from the current $750,000 to the proposed $4.4 million.
It’s very telling that the title has three popular and loaded words at the beginning of the acronym, “Safe,” “Fair” and “Environment” — designed to suggest that this increase might be considered fair, improve highway safety and somehow be environmentally friendly. Really this is nothing more than an effort to raise insurance costs and produce windfall settlements for litigators chasing down big trucks.
It’s a fact that even with today’s $750,000 minimum requirement — regardless of fault at the crash scene — the truck, its company and its insurer are the first to come under scrutiny from lawyers looking for someone to sue. The government already is fueling the fire of unfair, frivolous and fraudulent lawsuits when its Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Compliance, Safety, Accountability program advance the notion that a truck-involved crash where the truck driver is not at fault counts against the carrier’s safety record equally with an accident where the driver is at fault. All this amounts to litigation harassment of the entire trucking industry.
Raising liability minimums at this time is shortsighted, has nothing whatsoever to do with safety or fairness and should not be considered seriously. What we need today is tort reform, not escalation of corporate liability.
National Association of Small Trucking Companies
Mr. Cartwright does not need to clarify why the need to increase truck insurance coverage by nearly 500%. His previous position as a personal-injury attorney before he got elected to Congress for the first time last year says it all!
With all due respect to Mr. Cartwright, he’s probably so used to litigating for amounts many times higher than what he would expect to win or be able to settle for as an attorney. He just automatically applied the same principle in his call for a higher minimum property damage insurance level. In his mind, the tactic of, “Let’s go for a 500% increase and maybe get 150% at the end” — i.e., minimums of about $1.2 million — would be just about reasonable in the 21st century.
Fleet Safety/Compliance Professional
The Road Scholar
Rest Stop Risks
I saw something very disturbing on July 25 that lends credence to concerns we in the industry have regarding the recent hours-of-service revisions.
The state roadside rest stop on U.S. Route 33 near Marysville, Ohio, was full of commercial vehicles that were dangerously spilling over into the exit and entrance ramps, at 11:30 a.m., normally not a busy time.
I noticed several drivers standing or sitting near a picnic table, and I approached them and said, “Let me guess, electronic logs and a half-hour break?” They laughed, but the ensuing conversation was not funny.
These were all over-the-road drivers, none appearing to be tired, who were upset at being told when they could drive and not drive by the government. Most admitted they never even come close to a 70-hour workweek and wondered where all the drivers are who work 82 hours.
Aside from their concerns, this rest stop should normally be empty or close to it at that time of day. There is an increased risk of accidents with cars pulling into the stop at high speeds while trucks are parked at the entrance. This also begs the question: Where do the next two trucks needing their 30-minute break park when this rest stop is full?
This is just one location, on one highway, in one state. How much has this impacted the rest of the country?
Director of Safety