Trucking Minimum Liability Insurance Limits Are Woefully Outdated

man smilingMost people are aware that former Saturday Night Live cast member and 30 Rock television actor Tracy Morgan was critically injured in June when a Wal-Mart tractor trailer slammed into the rear of his limousine van on the New Jersey Turnpike. James McNair, another comedian and occupant of the van, was killed in the crash. It is alleged in a recently filed lawsuit that the tractor trailer driver had not slept for over 24 hours, and consequently fell asleep at the wheel.
This crash has begun to awaken the motoring public to the fact that nearly 4,000 persons are killed each year in truck-involved crashes according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. This number of deaths is more fatalities than aviation, boating, and railroad fatalities combined. A fatal truck-involved crash often costs millions in damages. But, a federal law passed in 1985 only requires trucking companies to carry $750,000 in liability insurance coverage to cover all damages from a crash. Because of such low liability insurance coverage limits, injured motorists themselves or taxpayers are left to pay the difference.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has recognized that current minimum liability insurance standards are far too low. In April of this year, the FMCSA released to Congress a report, which concluded that the costs of injuries and fatalities from truck crashes far exceed the current minimum insurance levels trucking companies are required to carry.
Congressman Matt Cartwright, Pennsylvania District 17, on July 18, 2013 introduced the Safe and Fair Environment on Highways Achieved through Underwriting Levels Act of 2013 (SAFE HAUL), H.R. 2730. This bill would increase cargo trucks’ minimum liability insurance requirements to meet today’s costs for truck crashes, and to update for inflation going forward.
The bill is currently pending in a transportation subcommittee. Please contact your Congressman today and urge him or her to co-sponsor and urge timely passage of the SAFE HAUL Act.