Rhode Island next in line to nix truck contract clause?

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Tuesday, February 14, 2017

An effort drawing attention in the Rhode Island General Assembly would drop the state from a shrinking list of states that have yet to put an end to the inclusion of an unfair clause in trucking contracts.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to discuss a bill today to prohibit indemnification clauses in trucking contracts. The clauses are set up to protect shippers or hold them harmless from anything that happens with a shipment.

Sponsored by Sen. Roger Picard, D-Woonsocket, S167 would outlaw provisions in contracts that provide for shippers to be indemnified for losses caused by their own negligence and make them “void and unenforceable.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association supports the effort.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA’s director of state legislative affairs, says the protection is a reasonable and fair solution to address rules that essentially provide shippers and receivers with immunity from any damage caused by their negligence while a trucker is on their property.

“Truckers should not be held liable for damages or injuries that are caused by the negligence of shippers and receivers,” he said. “Conversely, shippers and receivers should not be held liable for damages or injuries that arise from the negligence of a trucker.”

States lawmakers across the country have been active in recent years changing rules on indemnity clauses. To date, 45 states have acted to forbid unfair provisions from contracts.

A full list of states, and the laws, where protections are in place is available. In addition to Rhode Island, states yet to adopt protections are Delaware, Mississippi, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Affected contracts in Rhode Island would be defined as “a contract, agreement, or understanding” between a motor carrier and a shipper covering the transportation of property by motor carriers, entrance on property to load, unload, or transport property.

A separate bill of note at the statehouse would make the left lane off limits for everything except passing.

Supporters, including OOIDA and the National Motorists Association, say that blocking the left lane, whether intentional or not, results in reduced road safety and efficiency.

Rhode Island law already requires vehicles moving at speeds slower than traffic to stay to the right. Violators face $85 fines.

H5398 would require all vehicles traveling on multi-lane, limited access highways to stay out of the far-left lane when not passing. Violators would face $85 fines.

The bill is in the House Judiciary Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Rhode Island, click here.

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