Ohio bill would forbid unfair truck contract rule

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 3/24/2015

Ohio is one of the few holdouts yet to address unfair clauses in trucking contracts. An effort underway at the statehouse would remove Ohio from the short list of states that have not acted.

The House Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on a bill Tuesday, March 24, which would do away with clauses in trucking contracts that are set up to protect shippers or hold them harmless from anything that happens with a shipment.

Sponsored by Rep. Kristina Roegner, R-Hudson, HB71 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.”

During a recent hearing, Roegner told committee members the bill would not prohibit indemnification provisions altogether.

“It will prohibit only those indemnification clauses that would require the motor carrier to pay for the accidents, injuries, claims, damages, etc. that are caused by the negligent or wrongful acts of the shipper,” Roegner testified.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association supports the effort. The Association recently sent a letter of support to Roegner.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA director of state legislative affairs, calls legislative efforts like this a reasonable and fair solution to address existing 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,” Matousek said. “Conversely, shippers and receivers should not be held liable for damages or injuries that arise from the negligence of a trucker.”

“HB71 is a reasonable and fair solution that will prevent all parties to a transportation contract from granting themselves blanket immunity.”

States lawmakers across the country have been active in recent years changing rules on indemnity clauses. To date, 41 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 Ohio, states yet to adopt protections are Arkansas, Delaware, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Efforts underway at the Arkansas and New Jersey statehouses would remove the states from the shrinking list.

Affected contracts in Ohio would be defined as “a contract, agreement, or understanding” between a motor carrier and a shipper covering the transportation of property for compensation or hire by the motor carrier, entry on property to load, unload, or transport property.

The protection would not apply to intermodal chassis, or other intermodal equipment.

Roegner said the change called for in the bill “is not only fair and equitable, but should also reduce motor carriers’ insurance costs as now they would only be liable for their own actions.”

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

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