FMCSA Pressured by Congress to Increase Minimum Insurance Requirements for the Trucking Industry

FMCSA Pressured by Congress to Increase Minimum Insurance Requirements for the Trucking Industry

On July 22, 2015, 26 members of Congress implored the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to enact a rule that would increase the federal insurance minimums for trucks.

The FMCSA is a Department of Transportation (DOT) agency tasked solely with overseeing the U.S. trucking industry. The FMCSA is a fairly new agency. Founded in 2000 as part of the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999, the FMCSA is focusing on reducing the number of collisions involving commercial motor vehicles such as trucks and buses. The FMCSA focuses on:

  • Enacting and enforcing regulations designed at increasing safety and efficiency in the trucking industry
  • Using data and information systems to analyze collisions
  • Training and educating carriers and truck drivers
  • Partnering with other state, federal, and non-profit agencies to reduce truck accidents

The DOT is a federal agency under the umbrella of the executive branch of the government, headed by the President of the United States. While the system of checks and balances permits Congress to pass laws, it does not permit Congress to force executive agencies to pass certain rules. Federal agencies are given the power to enact rules and regulations and enforce these rules. Congress may request federal agencies like DOT and FMCSA to enact certain rules, though these requests are certainly not binding. On July 22, 2015, multiple members of Congress representing constituents throughout the country pressured the FMCSA to enact a rule it had been considering but had not yet decided upon.

In 1980, when Congress passed the Motor Carrier Act, Congress sought to deregulate the commercial trucking industry. In order to maintain standards, increase competition, and promote safety and adherence to traffic laws, Congress attempted to design barriers to entry into the trucking industry by mandating that trucking companies purchase adequate insurance. Congress intended for the minimum threshold to be reasonably high and to increase each year in conjunction with inflation. In 1985, carriers were required to purchase coverage of a minimum of $750,000. Unfortunately, this figure has failed to increase with inflation and has instead hovered around its starting figure. Not only has the U.S. dollar inflated but medical expenses have increased astronomically over the years as well. In addition, more truck accidents occur today than in 1985. The trucking industry causes billions of dollars in economic losses and medical bills each year, yet freight carriers are able to maintain their low premiums.

While this benefits the trucking industry by keeping costs low, accident victims are ambushed by lack of coverage. Often times, injuries caused by trucking accidents are catastrophic and life-long. Inflated medical expenses add up over time, resulting in hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars worth of medical bills, all attributed to a trucking accident. When a truck company carries only the federally mandated minimum level of insurance, this level often does not cover the steep health care costs associated with the injuries. In addition, the barriers to entry that the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 was designed to protect have eroded. Now, the FMCSA prosecutes countless trucking companies each year for skirting regulations in pursuit of making a quick buck.

In November of 2014, the FMCSA revisited the issue of insurance by opening rule making on the issue for review and considering whether the minimum levels should be adjusted. If the FMCSA follows the urging of Congress and adopts higher minimums, the trucking industry will experience a slight rise in premiums while unfortunate victims of truck accidents will receive a more fair opportunity to pursue compensation for injuries.

As a long-time advocate for insurance reforms, I, Charles H. Thronson, Attorney at Law, have worked alongside countless families victimized by these stagnated federal policies. While it is possible to pursue compensation outside of the coverage maximum directly from the trucking carriers, many of these carriers may try to dodge damages by claiming insolvency. Specifically, I can assist you and your family with investigating the truck accident, determining liability, reviewing the insurance coverage, and determining whether any damages not covered by the insurance policy can be obtained directly from the freight carrier or truck driver. To schedule a free consultation with myself, call my office today at (800) 856-5417 or send me an e-mail at CThronson@parsonsbehle.com.