The debate over higher minimum insurance levels

Oregon truck crash

While a proposal to increase minimum insurance levels is off the table for now, that hasn’t stopped advocates from pushing carriers to increase those limits above the current minimum of $750,000, which was set in 1983.

OverdriveOnline.com reported on the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking from November 2014, which mentioned that “increasing the current $750,000 minimum required of carriers would impact insurance premiums, ability to obtain insurance and more.”

Safety advocates suffered setback in June when the Trump administration dropped consideration of the proposal, according to Salon.com. The administration cited the lack of data showing raising the limit would lead to lower costs and more benefits. It was the same reasoning cited for why the initiative failed under the Obama administration.

According to a report posted in November 2016 by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), in accidents that involved large trucks, deaths are more likely to occur to passenger car occupants. IIHS based its study on data provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fatal Analysis Reporting System. As of 2015, among 3,852 deaths, only 16% were large truck occupants.

Data posted for the years, 2011-2014 show similar percentages. Among 3,663 fatalities in 2014, 16% were large truck occupants. Between 1975 and 2015, the percentage of large truck occupant deaths never surpassed 17%, which is was in 2012.

IIHS then zoomed in on the occupant deaths in crashes that involved 2 vehicles. For the year 2015 alone, among 2,171 occupant deaths listed, 2,100 of them occurred in the passenger vehicle. It does not specify in the report though which among these crash accidents involved deaths both on the part of the truck driver and the passenger vehicle occupants.

Most of the accidents mentioned in the IIHS report displayed the might of trucks when involved in crashes with smaller vehicles. Salon.com reported on the case of Graham Brown, who was thrown from his car in a crash. Brown suffered broken limbs and collapsed lungs alongside kidney failure and neurological damage in the 2005 accident. He has gone through no less than 20 surgeries since.

With inflation and oil price increases taken into consideration, HNI.com says that $750,000 in 1985 would have a current value of no less than $1.6 million and no more than $3.2 million. The Department of Transportation valued a human life lost in an accident at $9.6 million.

Salon.com mentioned how many independent truckers would be forced out of business if the minimum liability is increased beyond $750,000.

On the other hand, an industry initiative called the Trucking Alliance encourages other truckers to raise the coverage to a level “higher than the federal minimum requirement.” For them, it is a matter of public trust.

As for policies suggested to enact into law the increase in the minimum liability requirement, there was a bill introduced by

Rep. Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania introduced a bill that would raise the minimum insurance level to $4 million, but it hasn’t gained any traction on Capitol Hill.