TRUCK SAFETY COALITION AND ROAD SAFE AMERICA WELCOME REVISIONS TO CIVIL PENALTY AMOUNTS AND CALL ON SECRETARY CHAO TO ADJUST MINIMUM INSURANCE AMOUNTS FOR LARGE TRUCKS TO ACCOUNT FOR INFLATION
The Truck Safety Coalition and Road Safe America welcome a final rule providing the 2018 inflation adjustment to civil penalty amounts that may be imposed for violations of certain Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations. This final rule was promulgated following the passage of the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements (FCPIAA) Act of 2015, which intended to “preserve [the civil penalties’] deterrent impact.
Now, we call on the DOT Secretary Elaine Chao to adjust the minimum level of insurance required by large commercial trucks per incident – $750,000 – to be adjusted for inflation so that it too can function as an effective tool for improving commercial motor vehicle safety.
The minimum insurance level for large trucks has never been increased since Congress enacted it by passing the Motor Carrier Act of 1980, despite the clear legislative intent that the Secretary should adjust insurance minimums as needed to levels that would:
- Adequately compensate truck crash victims and survivors;
- Serve as a barrier to entry for unsafe trucking companies in lieu of the many barriers that were removed as part of deregulating the trucking industry; and
- Cause the insurance companies to provide effective underwriting and consequently incent motor carriers to engage in safe operations.
Unfortunately, this protective mechanism of federally required minimum levels of insurance has never functioned as intended, and many of Congress’ fears about deregulating the trucking industry back in 1980 have now come to fruition.
Too many families have not been sufficiently compensated following a fatal or severely injurious crash. Too many unsafe companies continue to endanger the public because enforcement and regulation simply cannot conduct adequate oversight over all of them. And too many trucking companies view deaths and catastrophic injuries as a cost of doing business rather than treating safety measures as an investment and means to reducing costs associated with collisions.
This needs to change and Secretary Chao is empowered to do so. We also call upon the incoming Congress to mandate the Department of Transportation to make such adjustments as well as to determine relevant procedures for adjustments going forward as they did in FCPIAA Act of 2015.
Based on the change in Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) from July of 1980 (the month and year of enactment of the Motor Carrier Act of 1980) to October of 2018, the minimum insurance amount for motor carriers should be no less than $2,293,394.90. To account for medical cost inflation, the amount should be no less than $4,757,060.60.