Truckers rally against attempt to green light insurance requirement increase

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | 5/13/2015

Truckers rallied together to protect legislative language that will freeze the current insurance requirements in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, May 13.

Language in the House version of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development 2016 appropriations bill will prevent the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration from increasing the amount of insurance that motor carriers are required to carry.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association sent a targeted Call-To-Action alert to members whose representatives serve on the House Committee on Appropriations in advance of the Wednesday mark-up hearing. The alert encouraged members to reach out to lawmakers and to encourage them to block any attempts to remove the legislation from the appropriations bill during the markup.

During the hearing, an amendment was introduced that would have stripped the freeze in insurance requirements from the bill. That amendment was defeated by a vote of 31-20.

OOIDA Director of Government Affairs Ryan Bowley credits the active membership in today’s successful defeat of the amendment that sought to remove any freeze on the current insurance requirements.

“OOIDA members, through calls, emails, and one-on-one interaction with lawmakers and their staffers have been a huge reason why so many in Congress have a problem with FMCSA’s rush to raise financial responsibility requirements,” Bowley said. “That was clear during the discussion at the Appropriations Committee today, where so many lawmakers spoke about this issue.”

The language in the THUD appropriations bill preventing an increase received support from a pair of lawmakers who clearly understand the damaging effects that a 500 percent increase in the insurance requirement could have.

“This is an example of the heavy-hand of government on small business in America,” said Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah.

Stewart, who was once a small-business owner, talked about the pressures anyone who owns their own businesses face. He recounted lying awake at night wondering how he would make payroll on Friday for his employees as the type of stress small-business owners face.

“If you are  a small carrier and your insurance premiums are going to increase to as high as $20,000 per truck, imagine having that thought and trying to go back to sleep,” he said.

Rep. David Young, R-Iowa, spoke to the success of the current insurance requirement and called any attempt to raise them “a solution in search of a problem.”

“The current insurance requirements already cover 99.9 percent of all crashes. That’s a pretty good stat. I don’t think you can find other government programs with that kind of success,” Young said. “We’re all concerned about truck safety, but increased liability requirements do not improve safety.”

OOIDA has been in opposition to any increase in the insurance requirement since the idea was first floated in Congress in early 2013.

Leading up to Wednesday’s hearing, OOIDA and other industry stakeholders sent a letter to Congress urging them to stop FMCSA from increasing the insurance requirement.

“Small-business truckers are some of the safest and most experienced truckers on our nation’s highways, with an average of 2 million miles without an accident, yet the new higher premiums from this increase could force them out of business,” said Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president.

The letter was signed by national, regional and state associations representing a wide range of transportation entities, including school buses, motor coaches, agricultural truckers and others.

Bowley said that it’s important that truckers do not let up on this very important issue. The full appropriations bill will eventually be considered by the full House, and there will be a Senate version of the bill as well.

“Continued interaction with your lawmakers will ensure that they understand the crippling effects any unnecessary increase could have and enlist their support in freezing the insurance requirement at its current level as the THUD bill progresses through Congress,” Bowley said.

He also encouraged truckers to use the resources at to communicate with their lawmakers on this issue and others such as FMCSA reform, speed limiters and electronic logs.

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