Republicans Try to Block Raising Liability Limits for Trucks

An effort by the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration to raise mandatory minimum insurance rates for the first time since 1985 came under attack this week in a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives.

An amendment to the congressional funding bill for the FMCSA would prevent the agency from raising the minimum liability insurance rates for commercial trucks and buses. Presently, motor carriers are required to carry at least $750,000 (haulers of hazardous materials must be insured for between $1 and $5 million) in insurance protection. The agency wants to increase the amount to a minimum of $1.6 million for general freight, and $2.2 to $10.8 million for hazmat, citing the increased costs associated with medical treatment following crashes involving large trucks.

Rep. Matthew Cartwright, D-Pa., had authored a bill to raise insurance coverage minimums to $4.4 million, to be annually adjusted based on the medical consumer price index. “When a truck is underinsured when a truck doesn’t have enough insurance to cover the harm that it causes, who pays the difference?” he asked. “The U.S. taxpayer picks up the difference.”

The amendment by Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., passed in a narrow 214-212 vote. He had said the changes would affect the availability of insurance and would be too costly for small business owners in the truck and bus industries. The amendment is to the Housing, Transportation and Urban Development Appropriations Act.

The amendment will now move to the Senate where a companion provision does not yet exist.

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