Montana Representative Steve Daines this week succeeded in passing an amendment that would keep the FMCSA from raising insurance rates for motor carriers. His amendment to a federal funding bill squeaked by in the House, 214-215, and means the House is pretty evenly divided over how much insurance truck owners should carry for their vehicles.
While low insurance costs might be good for those truck owners, the same can’t be said for the people hurt or killed when a truck crashes. Those medical costs have - surprise! - risen since 1985, when the federal minimum insurance coverage rate was last changed.
Imagine getting a hospital or doctor to treat you at the same prices charged 30 years ago … The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration has been looking at minimum rates that more closely match inflation, but the numbers are meeting resistance in Congress. The lobbyists for independent trucking companies are very active efforts to avoid increased financial responsibility, citing higher costs for small trucking and bus companies. What about the rest of us? Haven’t we had to pay higher costs as inflation rises? Are you paying the same for insurance as in 1985?
But beyond that are the catastrophic impacts of a collision with a big truck. Besides the shock of being hit by a big rig are the long-range costs in medical bills and lost wages and other losses that can be too immense to quantify. Coverage can also be diluted when multiple vehicles are involved or multiple fatalities occur.
And who picks up the tab if the truck’s insurance doesn’t cover all your costs? The U.S. Taxpayer, Medicare, Social Security? Additional liability insurance is an expenses, but it can and should be borne by the people who profit from the industry, and the carriers that cause collisions. Opponents of the increase repeatedly cite a study conducted by the Department of Transportation which found that a vast majority of claims do not exceed the existing liability limits, but when multiple fatality claimants agree to divide the $1,000,000 policy limits and settle a case, that does not mean that the families involved only suffered $1,000,000 in damage, or that the value of the claims did not exceed the available limits. Protecting the motoring public is a cost of doing business in the trucking industry. Its time some trucking companies and politicians accept it.
We are proud of the Democrats who voiced their opposition to the Daines amendment this week. And we don’t expect much traction in the Senate if the amendment makes it that far.