The Insurance Act will update the minimums required for liability insurance for commercial truckers to keep up with inflation and cover medical costs for injury victims.
Liability Insurance for Commercial Truckers
A new Insurance Act will ensure that minimum liability insurance requirements for commercial truckers are updated to meet inflation rates. Two proposed bills, currently in the House of Representatives, will update minimum insurance requirements for carriers to ensure adequate coverage for injuries and property damages caused by truck crashes.
In a July press conference, the proposed legislation was announced to the Truck Safety Coalition. Three U.S. Representatives introduced the Insurance Act as a way to reduce serious crashes and fatalities caused by large commercial trucks. Required liability insurance minimums for truckers were established in the 1980s and have not been updated since. Proponents of the Insurance Act claim that the current insurance minimums are not adequate to cover medical claims for injury victims of commercial trucking accidents.
The Truckload Carriers Association and the Trucking Alliance support adequate liability insurance coverage for all commercial vehicles, but only at reasonable rates. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposes the Insurance Act, stating that current liability insurance minimums are adequate, and raising minimum coverage will only make it harder for small-business truckers to afford insurance.
Primary Liability Insurance Requirements
Primary liability insurance is mandatory for all commercial trucks. It pays for any bodily injuries and property damages caused to another person/persons by a commercial trucking accident. It does not cover bodily injury to the truck driver or property damages to the truck driver’s truck.
The Federal Motor Safety Carrier Association (FMSCA) sets the minimum liability insurance coverage required for commercial trucks. All trucks over 10,000 pounds are required to carry the following minimums:
- $750,000 – Trucks that haul general commodities such as products and produce are required to carry a minimum of $750,000 in liability insurance. Some load brokers require a minimum of $1,000,000.
- $1,000,000 – Trucks that haul vehicles are required to carry a minimum of $1,000,000 in liability insurance. One million in coverage is becoming an industry standard for many hauled commodities as well.
- $5,000,000 – Trucks that haul hazardous materials such as fuel, chemicals, and other flammable or toxic substances are required to carry a minimum of $5,000,000 in liability insurance.
Primary liability insurance is a big expense for carriers and small business or owner-operated truckers, but necessary to offset the costs of trucking accidents and injuries. Truck-involved crashes often cause serious injuries and fatalities. A recent truck crash on the I-70 in Lakewood Colorado killed four people, injured six more, and left 28 vehicles burned to rubble in a fiery crash. The trucker was hauling lumber, so the minimum insurance requirement was $750,000. Unfortunately, this amount of liability insurance did not begin to cover the medical costs for injuries and fatalities for 10 people or the property damages for 28 incinerated vehicles.
Trucking Fatalities on the Rise
According to the National Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA), truck-related fatalities increased by 3 percent in 2018. In 2017, NHTSA data showed that large commercial trucking accidents killed a total of 4,761 people. Fatality reports show the following statistics:
- Truck Driver Fatalities – 498 truck drivers died in collisions with a single motor vehicle
- Truck Driver Fatalities – 343 truck drivers died in collisions with multiple motor vehicles
- Vehicle Occupant Fatalities – 3,450 people in passenger vehicles died in collisions with a large commercial truck
- Non-Occupant Fatalities – 470 pedestrians, motorcyclists, and bicyclists died in truck-related crashes
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) blames the rise in commercial trucking accidents and fatalities on truck driver errors including excessive speeds, driver distractions, driver fatigue, and impairments such as alcohol and/or drugs. Fatal crashes seen by truck accident lawyers often involve truck driver errors.
Truck drivers face delivery deadlines that must be met to avoid penalties. Some long-haul truckers are paid according to their total daily miles driven, which creates an incentive to speed in order to drive as many miles as possible in a given day.
Commercial truckers spend a lot of time on the road, so many turn to distractions to avoid boredom and keep them awake. Talking and texting on a cell phone, changing radio stations, watching videos, surfing the Internet, and eating meals are common distractions for truckers.
Truck driver fatigue is a major cause of truck-related crashes that cause serious injuries and deaths. Although rest and sleep breaks are required by federal regulations, driver fatigue is still an ongoing problem within the trucking industry.
Alcohol and/or Drugs
Commercial truckers are required to meet strict regulations for alcohol and/or drug use, but some drivers don’t follow the rules. Alcohol and drug use with cocaine, marijuana, and opioids are contributing to many trucking fatalities.