House votes against burdening truckers with increased insurance requirements

By David Tanner, senior editor

Small-business truckers rallied and members of the U.S. House of Representatives responded in early June, shooting down an amendment that would have cleared the way for insurance requirements to be increased for trucking and bus companies.

The amendment offered by Rep. Matthew Cartwright, D-Pa., would have stripped a provision from this year’s Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill to prohibit federal funds from being used to carry out the insurance increase.

Procedurally, a “no” vote on the Cartwright amendment was a “yes” to freeze current insurance requirements on trucking companies.

House lawmakers voted 175-248 on the amendment, killing it so it could not be added to the full THUD bill that lawmakers passed shortly afterward.

OOIDA strongly opposed the Cartwright amendment and issued a Call To Action to Association membership ahead of the vote. The Association was pleased with the outcome.

OOIDA and other industry groups have told Congress that FMCSA’s advanced notice of proposed rulemaking that seeks to raise requirements – an initiative based on increases in medical inflation including liability and bodily injury – will not make highways safer.

“Congress never intended financial requirements to be tied to increases in medical inflation or to cover the worst-case crashes, and the legislative and regulatory history on that is clear,” OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said in a statement following the vote.

“In a worst-case crash, FMCSA’s own report admits that there is no requirement high enough to cover all damages,” Spencer said. “But there may be other ways to address covering the damage costs of catastrophic and worst-case crashes.”

OOIDA points out that FMCSA’s own data shows that more than 99 percent of crash damages are covered under the current requirements. Even by increasing requirements by 500 percent or more, as proposed, only a fraction of a percent of crashes would be affected, showing that these requirements are covering all but the worst of the worst.

OOIDA says FMCSA’s approach is arbitrary and that it prevents trucking companies, insurers, states and others from having a real, honest discussion about alternatives to approaching catastrophic coverage.

“It is sweeping the problem under the rug because FMCSA is going to issue a rule increasing the requirements, say they fixed the problem, and then move on to something else,” OOIDA leadership stated. “Meanwhile, their own data shows that increasing requirements will not fix the problem.”

Not to be overlooked in the equation is an analysis by Land Line Magazine Managing Editor Jami Jones in 2013, which revealed that Cartwright, a licensed attorney, and members of his family are partners in a law firm that pursues lawsuits against motor carriers involved in crashes.

The vote on the Cartwright amendment was listed in the Congressional Record, officially, as 176 in favor and 247 against, and was largely split down party lines with a handful of crossovers. At press time, Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., had notified the Congressional Record that he’d voted yes in error and that he intended to vote against the amendment. That put the total at 175 in favor and 248 against.

More about THUD

Each year, Congress considers and passes 12 appropriations bills – also known as spending bills – that keep the basic functions of government operating. For transportation, the annual spending bill is known as Transportation, Housing and Urban Development.

This year’s THUD bill is HR2577, offered by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla. OOIDA was hoping the Senate would take up the House version in the coming weeks. LL