In what may signal a gigantic step toward safer highways across the nation, 26 members of Congress have urged the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to increase minimum insurance level requirements for trucking companies.
The current minimum of $750,000, implemented in 1980, was designed to help police truck companies with negligent operating practices. The idea was that high premiums would discourage these carriers from employing poorly maintained or recklessly driven trucks that carried an elevated risk of accidents, as well as the costly insurance payouts that accompany them.
“Safety advocates like Fried Goldberg applaud this effort by members of Congress and the FMCSA to refocus on just that – safety.” — Joe Fried, managing partner
The fewer of these dangerous trucks on the road, the less chance there was for innocent motorists to suffer the serious injuries that a truck crash can inflict. The deregulatory bill made it abundantly clear that Congress had the big picture in mind.
Unfortunately, the picture never got bigger. In the decades since the bill was passed, cost-of-living has skyrocketed due to inflation, and medical bills have followed suit. What would buy $750,000 in health care in 1980 would today cost approximately $4.4 million.
The problem this poses for drivers is as disturbing as it is obvious. How can truck crash victims afford staggering medical bills, expensive physical therapy and all of the other costs associated with a catastrophic accident on such outdated payout limits? Insurance premiums of $750,000 may be enough to cover just a fraction of the necessary health care today, and the rest – paid through government plans like Medicare or Medicaid – ultimately come from taxpayers’ pockets.
More importantly, the stagnant laws allow trucking companies to operate dangerous vehicles with little fear of the consequences in the event of a crash. More than anything else, this is a safety issue. With trucker insurance premiums remaining static, the lives of everyone on the road are at constant risk.
For this reason, the letter represents a monumental shift toward safer highways – as well as an acknowledgement that the laws we currently have to protect Americans from negligent trucking carriers are simply not enough.
It’s a long overdue correction to policy that began with the best of intentions, and simply lost its impact over time.