Regulator Eyes Increase in Motor Carrier Insurance Minimums

It may be hard to believe, but it’s been 30 years since our government has required an increase in the minimum amount of insurance for motor carriers, which includes both large and small trucking companies alike.

The federally mandated $750,000 minimum established in 1985 is the same today despite significant price jumps for everything from medical care to postage stamps. That is why a lot of people are surprised to hear that many U.S. trucking companies have maintained the same level of insurance since “Family Ties” was the nation’s top television program.

However, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration currently is considering raising the minimum insurance requirements, and the agency is accepting online public comment on the proposed increases by February 26 here. By clicking on the “Comment Now!” link in the top right-hand corner, you can join many others who are telling the federal government that they want the minimum raised.

One of the main reasons why the minimum coverage amount should be higher can be found in the high costs associated with accidents involving tractor-trailers and other heavy trucks. While $750,000 might have been suitable to help 18-wheeler crash victims cover medical costs and other financial losses in 1985, that amount would evaporate quickly today based on the ever-increasing costs for hospital visits, surgery, medication, rehabilitation and other needs.

Those high costs are why U.S. Congressman Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania is pushing for the minimum insurance limit to be increased from $750,000 to approximately $4.5 million, which has been adjusted to match the current costs for medical care.

Most large motor carriers already maintain insurance policies well above the $750,000 minimum, including plenty of companies with coverage topping $50 million. Many of these larger trucking companies support the proposed increase since their trucks often are involved in accidents with those owned by smaller operators, whose coverage limits account for only a fraction of the potential damages. Those smaller operators, most of which have four or fewer trucks, are leading the opposition to the minimum coverage increase based on their claim that higher insurance prices will harm their businesses.

But the truth is that requiring higher minimums will only help the trucking industry by encouraging trucking companies to provide better safety training for drivers and make safety a higher priority. Doing so will only decrease the number of heavy truck accidents and make our highways safer for everyone.