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InfrastructureNewsTrucking Regulation

House approves trucking insurance increase and hours-of-service delay

Proposals are part of Democrat-written, $1.5 billion infrastructure bill that Republicans see “not going anywhere”

A major infrastructure package that includes provisions to hike truckers’ insurance coverage to $2 million and delay the September 29 start date for new federal hours of service (HOS) changes was approved today by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The $1.5 trillion Moving Forward Act, which passed the Democrat-controlled House largely along party lines by a vote of 233 to 188, was derided by Republicans in the chamber as a “wish list” partisan bill heavy on climate-change related proposals that is unlikely to move past the Republican-controlled Senate.

“It’s an absolute failure – it’s not going anywhere,” commented House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee ranking member Sam Graves (R-Missouri). The White House Office of Management and Budget recommended this week that President Trump veto the bill if it were to pass.

Independent owner-operators, who had initially supported the package, retracted that support after what they called a “poison pill” amendment was added to the bill increasing the minimum commercial truck insurance requirements from $750,000 to $2 million.

“There is not an ounce of reputable research that indicates imposing such a dramatic increase in insurance coverage does anything to reduce crash rates,” asserted the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association (OOIDA). “Increasing the minimum insurance requirements…in the midst of a major economic downturn would be nothing short of disastrous for many small motor carriers and owner-operators, who are currently struggling to stay in business due to historically low freight rates.”

While supporting the legislation’s primary goal of working toward FAST Act reauthorization and improving the nation’s infrastructure, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) also opposed the insurance increase.

“This language was written by trial lawyers, supported by trial lawyers and, to no surprise, benefits trial lawyers,” commented ATA Executive Vice President for Advocacy Bill Sullivan. “This new $2 million cap was arbitrarily plucked out of thin air by the American Association of Justice [AAJ] and aside from lining the pockets of AAJ members, it lacks relevant data. If a change to the minimum insurance cap is to be made, it must reflect the direct input of the trucking industry and be based on actuarial data – not special interest pandering.”

The legislation includes a five-year reauthorization of surface transportation programs, including over $3 billion for driver and motor carrier safety oversight by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

But it also requires FMCSA to conduct a safety review on the effects of the final HOS rule, which would delay the effective date by at least 18 months. Safety advocates and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters have filed a petition on the HOS rule also seeking a delay.

The legislation funds grants for truck parking, establishes limits on detention times by shippers if drivers are not compensated, restores public availability of driver safety scores compiled through the FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program, and creates a task force to investigate predatory lease-purchase agreements between carriers and independent owner-operators.

Also included is $25 billion in funding for the ailing U.S. Postal Service, with $6 billion of that amount dedicated for the agency to invest in new zero-emission trucks.

NATSO, which represents truck stops and travel plazas, joined OOIDA in opposing the legislation after a provision was included to allow electric vehicle charging stations at interstate rest areas.

The country’s major freight railroads also opposed the bill, which mandates train crew sizes, requires studies on precision scheduled railroading, and would effectively repeal the recent approval by the Trump administration allowing liquefied natural gas to move in rail tank cars.

“At a time that desperately calls for politicians to come together to meet pressing challenges, including infrastructure, the bill woefully misses the mark,” the Association of American Railroads asserted. “Throughout the crafting of the bill and even during the markup, past precedent of bipartisan collaboration was largely absent.”

Last summer the U.S. Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee passed its own $287 billion surface transportation bill, but other committees in that chamber with jurisdiction have yet to weigh in.

The current five-year surface transportation law, the FAST Act, expires on September 30. Given that the 2020 presidential election takes place in early November, Washington insiders see little appetite among Republicans to move on a long-term surface reauthorization. Instead a series of short-term authorization measures is considered a more likely scenario.

Related articles:

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher

John Gallagher, Washington Correspondent

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.

28 Comments

    1. I really don’t know why we bother with this.we are hero’s when they need us.I don’t know about you guys,but don’t you feel like a fool.I would never ever recommend anyone get in this business.And for president Trump he works hard but doesn’t see the crap they do to us drivers.Constant harrassment.I feel sorry for the new guys getting in this business.Anything they can get out of us,this is tough business.And now since covid the price of parts skyrocket.Honestly in the second wave I’m parking my truck and collect my free money like everyone else.They say frontline hero’s yeah right Front line fools.Cant fix stupid.Sorry guys just sick of all their crap.

      1. Heros who are not allowed to use the toilet, or wash our hands and sometimes not even allowed out of the truck, we are the new typhoid Mary !

  1. This is a terrible bill. They put one or two great items in a bill then fill it with garbage. When are we going to stop this. Bills should go through on an individual item. This practice of packing bills with hidden agendas that they know would never pass on their own merit has to stop.

  2. Democrats, you’re high on protecting the Small Business Owner especially during COVID-19. Small Trucking Companies and Owner-Operators should not be faced with this type of burden of additional insurance cost. Current minimum Insurance Liability is not adequate for the victims, that they need more money? Where is this additional money to help compensate for the purposed Limit of 2 million coming from? So the questions I asked the 288 Democrats who voted for the increase, how many of you people own or in the Trucking Transportation Business and tell me what wonderful rate increases you received during the COVID-19 pandemic to help offset this Insurance Liability increase? Who does the increase really help?

  3. I agree 100 % these politicians that we didn’t even vote in because most people were to lazy to vote out my wife and I got up at 6 am to exercise our right to vote the right our men and women fought to protect this is what u didn’t vote for thanks all of u lady as citizens who could not find the time to vote this is the kind of thing we can expect from our politicians that u didn’t vote for!!!

  4. Why wait until there are numerous minority truckers making a living as truck drivers. Yes the current amount has not changed for years and who reaped that benefit. When minorities do same the haters seek change to make things harder or more so impossible. And this can be traced in many other industries

  5. Why wait until there are numerous minority truckers making a living as truck drivers. Yes the current amount has not changed for years and who reaped that benefit. When minorities do same the haters seek change to make things harder or more so impossible. And this can be traced in many other industries . Why is it always a race issue, because there is always a devil amoung you all thats always ignored But you all listen to his or her justification because deep down inside you all want the same.

  6. It’s strange to me that we’re having a problem with brokers cheating and stealing now they increase the insurance by 1.25 million dollars. This won’t affect the mega carriers because 95% of them are self-insured so This only affects the owner operators just small little guy it’s just a t a crying to get rid of the majority of the trucking industry which includes independent owner-operators small little companies so the mega carriers, monopolize on the industry and when that is done they will have autonomous trucks with no drivers be about 6 million people without jobs

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