Truckers Win Fight to Keep Insurance Payouts Low

In 2015, 4,067 people were killed in large truck crashes in the United States

Truckers Win Fight to Keep Insurance Payouts Low

 

 

 

 

 

This article was written by Paul Feldman, is a staff writer at FairWarning, a nonprofit news organization based in Pasadena, California, that focuses on public health, consumer and environmental issues.

Feds Reject Insurance Hike for Big-Rigs, Pleasing Independent Truckers, Rankling Safety Advocates

By Paul Feldman on July 13, 2017

https://www.fairwarning.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/TruckingIllustration-800x469.jpgGraham Brown was headed to his job as a computer technician when a drowsy big-rig driver swerved into his path and struck his car, sending it flying off a rural Illinois road and into a field.

Brown was airlifted to a hospital for a six-hour surgery that saved his life. He suffered collapsed lungs, broken arms and legs, neurological damage and kidney failure, his mother, Kate Brown recalls. Hospitalized for 75 days after the May, 2005, accident, Graham Brown, now 40, has endured more than 20 surgeries and still cannot use his left hand or arm.

Yet because the small trucking company had little more than the federal minimum of $750,000 in liability insurance, Kate Brown says she and Graham’s father were forced to dip into their retirement funds and take big chunks of time off from work to help care for their son.

Graham Brown eventually received a settlement of about $300,000, she says, after payment of attorney’s fees and other expenses. With continuing medical costs and permanent injuries that could reduce his earnings, he faces an uncertain financial future.

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Graham Brown, shown here with his mother, Kate Brown, was severely injured in a crash with a big-rig, and has had more than 20 surgeries. Because the trucking company had little more than the federal minimum of $750,000 in liability insurance, Brown faces an uncertain financial future.

The $750,000 minimum has been in place since 1983, but safety advocates who have campaigned to raise it have been stymied up to now. In their latest setback, the Trump administration in June dropped consideration of a higher minimum on grounds that it couldn’t get enough data from insurance and trucking firms to prove that the benefits would outweigh the costs. Efforts to raise the minimum previously stalled under the Obama administration, which also cited problems in collecting enough data.

Tens of thousands hurt

Kate Brown, of Gurnee, Illinois, said she was grateful her son survived, noting that “most people don’t live through crashes like that.” As for the financial stress on the family, Brown said it’s ”the price you have to pay because of the minimum insurance.”

Each year, close to 4,000 people are killed in the U.S. in crashes involving large trucks and tens of thousands more are hurt, some suffering catastrophic injuries that leave them disabled and in need of expensive lifetime care.

Yet for more than three decades, the federal minimum for truck liability insurance has remained stuck at $750,000. That amount, which must cover all victims of a crash, may be a fraction of the expenses for a single badly injured survivor. Simply adjusted for inflation, the minimum would be more than $2.2 million today.

“A million dollars wouldn’t have gotten my kids out of Akron Children’s Hospital,” said Baltimore resident Ed Slattery 61, a former economic analyst for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who quit his job to care full-time for his two sons after they were critically injured in a 2010 big-rig crash on the Ohio Turnpike that killed his wife Susan.

The $750,000 minimum is a sliver of the $9.6 million value placed on a human life by the Department of Transportation when it is considering the costs and benefits of safety regulations.

Except for independent truckers, who say that even a small hike in their insurance premiums could force some of them off the road, few argue that the current minimum makes sense.

Action by private sector

The Trucking Alliance, an industry group that includes such major firms as J.B. Hunt and Knight, urges truckers to maintain coverage “significantly higher than the federal minimum requirement.” Doing so is necessary “to maintain the public’s trust and cover the medical costs associated with truck crash victims,” the organization says.

Even without a change in the government mandate, the private sector has moved the bar slightly on its own. A survey by the American Trucking Associations showed that eight of 10 truckers maintain $1-million of liability insurance to meet requirements imposed by private brokers and shipping companies.

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Consumer advocate Joan Claybrook faulted both the Trump and Obama administrations for failing to raise minimum liability coverage for trucking firms.

In 2013, a bill to raise the minimum to more than $4 million was introduced by Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., but got no traction.

A year later, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, the branch of the Department of Transportation that regulates interstate trucking, announced it would consider raising the minimum and requested public comment.

But in one of a flurry of deregulatory moves by the Trump administration, the motor carrier safety agency last month said it was withdrawing the proposal. Citing difficulty in getting industry data for a cost-benefit study, the agency said it lacked enough “information to support moving forward … at this time.”

Lack of data to justify an increase

Consumer advocate Joan Claybrook, the former head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, called such reasoning ”ridiculous” and also condemned the Obama Administration’s failure to take action when it had the chance. She said that during Obama’s second term, officials of the motor carrier safety agency dragged their feet, also citing lack of enough data to justify an increase.

In an interview with FairWarning, Randi Hutchinson, chief counsel for the agency, said it cannot issue a regulation without ample cost-benefit evidence. If it did so, a court “would most likely find the regulation was arbitrary and capricious.”

Safety advocates said they hope the issue isn’t dead, and that they may again seek help from Congress.

“This remains a top priority for the congressman,” said Cartwright’s legislative director Jeremy Marcus. “Whether a legislative solution or working with the FMCSA, he’s still hoping to get these insurance rates raised to an appropriate level.”

Jackie Novak, of Hendersonville, North Carolina, who lost her only son, Charles, 22, in a crash with a tractor trailer in 2010, says she has little hope of action by the Trump administration.

The crash that took her son’s life also killed four others and injured more than a dozen. A $1 million liability policy was ultimately divided between survivors and next of kin. The family of Charles Novak, who had a two-year old son, got just over $100,000, Jackie Novak said.

‘Has your car insurance gone up?’

“Not only is he never going to know his father, but … someone has to pay to raise him.,” she said. “So guess what? Social Security is now taking up the task to raise my grandson.”

“I ask this question of every lawmaker that I’ve spoken to in Washington,” Novak told FairWarning. ” ‘Has your car insurance gone up in the last 34 years?’ Did anyone call to ask:  ‘Are we going to put you out of business if we raise the insurance?’ No, they just do it.

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Charles Novak, a 22-year-old father, was killed along with four others in a crash with a tractor-trailer in 2010.

“So this argument that raising the minimum insurance would be putting small operators out of business doesn’t wash with me. … They permanently put my son out of business, so if you can’t afford to be in that business, then be in a different business.”

The most vociferous opposition to an increase has come from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which claims 158,000 members and has spent more than $2.3 million lobbying in Washington since the start of 2015, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

After federal officials abandoned the effort, the group declared success in “getting a potentially devastating proposed regulation withdrawn.”

In considering an upgrade, the motor carrier agency reviewed several analyses showing that claims in severe accidents far exceed the liability minimum. The Trucking Alliance, for example, reported that more than 40 percent of injury claims against its members exceeded $750,000.

The American Trucking Associations, on the other hand, submitted a study of 85,000 crashes that found the average loss per crash was $11,229.

But safety advocates say insurance minimums aren’t meant to cover average accidents, but truly serious ones.

‘Salt on a wound’

“It’s bad enough when a family experiences a tragedy in losing someone or having loved ones severely injured,” said John Lannen, executive director of the Truck Safety Coalition, an advocacy group. “It’s like salt on a wound when then you find out the company that caused this damage cannot compensate the family whether it be for medical bills, lost income or whatever.

“What happens, sadly, is these people suffer again because now they’re put in a situation where they have to rely on taxpayers, whether it be through Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, whatever it is,” Lannen added in an interview.

In the Ohio crash that killed Ed Slattery’s wife, the fact that the truck was owned by Estes Express Lines, a big firm with deep pockets, has made all the difference in his ability to provide lifetime care for his wheelchair-bound, brain-injured son Mathew, now 19, and a second son, Peter, who suffered less debilitating injuries.

Estes agreed to a settlement of more than $40-million, aimed at providing round-the-clock aid to Matthew in a new and specially equipped house.

“I’m the poster child of how it should go, I’m not the poster child for the norm,” said Ed Slattery, who has started a foundation to assist the families of other brain-injured people. “The luck of the draw is I got hit by a big company  …. that was well insured.”

Even so, he said, Matthew’s life will never be close to normal.

“He’s going to need 24/7 supervision for the rest of his life,” Slattery said. “He’s not going to college with his classmates — they’re all freshmen. They’re dating. He’s not. They’re driving. He’s not. It breaks your heart every day.”

Link: https://www.fairwarning.org/2017/07/trump-administration-move-big-rig-insurance-rankles-safety-advocates/

This story
also published by:

NBCNews.com
IowaWatch
Industrial Safety & Hygiene News

 

 

STATEMENT OF TRUCK SAFETY COALITION ON WITHDRAWAL OF ADVANCE NOTICE OF PROPOSED RULEMAKING TO INCREASE MINIMUM FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY REQUIREMENTS FOR MOTOR CARRIERS

STATEMENT OF TRUCK SAFETY COALITION ON WITHDRAWAL OF ADVANCE NOTICE OF PROPOSED RULEMAKING TO INCREASE MINIMUM FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY REQUIREMENTS FOR MOTOR CARRIERS

ARLINGTON, VA (June 2, 2017) – On behalf of families of truck crash victims and survivors, the Truck Safety Coalition is extremely disappointed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA, agency) withdrawal of a long overdue Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to increase the minimum financial responsibility requirements for motor carriers, which has not been raised since it was set 37 years ago. The FMCSA’s decision to forego pursuing a commonsense approach to enhancing safety on our roads and leveling the playing field in our nation’s trucking industry is deeply troubling, but unfortunately it is yet another data point to demonstrate the agency’s dereliction of duty and lack of direction.

The fact of the matter is that the minimum level of insurance required by trucks per incident has not been increased since 1980. It has not been adjusted for inflation or, more appropriately, for medical cost inflation. The results of these decades of inaction are devastating. Families are forced to face the financial impact of under-insured truckers along with the emotional and physical destruction. The failure to raise the required amount of minimum insurance allows chameleon carriers to enter the market, with no underwriting, and simply close down and reincorporate under a new name following a catastrophic crash.

Yet, this issue is not unique to survivors and families of truck crash victims; it affects all taxpayers. Insurance is supposed to address the actual damages caused. When there is an insufficient payout, families are forced to declare bankruptcy or rely on government programs after being financially drained. The costs of healthcare, property, and lost income for all parties involved in a truck crash can greatly exceed $750,000 per event, and all of these costs are much higher today than they were in 1980. The unpaid costs are then passed on to taxpayers. In other words, maintaining the grossly inadequate minimum privatizes profits but socializes the costs of underinsured trucking.

Moreover, if the mandate for minimum insurance is to remain a significant incentive for carriers to operate safely as Congress intended, it must be updated to reflect the current realities of the industry. Because the minimum insurance requirements have not kept pace with inflation, the $750,000 per event has become a disincentive for unsafe motor carriers to improve and maintain the safety of their operations. Additionally, raising the minimum amount of insurance will motivate insurers to apply a higher level of scrutiny in determining which motor carriers they insure.

What is even more frustrating and confusing about this decision to walk away from this rulemaking is that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) fully acknowledges that $750,000 is an insufficient amount to cover one person’s life. The Department uses a value of statistical life of $9.6 million. This is a figure the DOT defines “as the additional cost that individuals would be willing to bear for improvements in safety (that is, reductions in risks) that, in the aggregate, reduce the expected number of fatalities by one,” and updates to account for changes in prices and real income. Clearly, the DOT has determined that not only is a single life worth more than $750,000 but that it benefits the American public to ensure that these values are indexed to inflation.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and President Trump should be embarrassed that they withdrew a commonsense rule that will improve safety on our roads and ensure families are adequately compensated for the pain and suffering they endure. This issue now falls to Secretary Elaine Chao, who is vested with the authority to raise this figure. These families do not need well wishes and condolences from policy-makers—they need change. The Secretary should take immediate action to increase the minimum insurance requirement and to index it to inflation. This way, the amount will be increased periodically and apolitically. 

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Minimum Insurance Levels for Motor Carriers

The Minimum Level of Insurance Required for Large Trucks was Set in 1980 

The Required Amount of $750,000 Has Never Been Increased

Background

In 1980, as Congress deregulated the trucking industry, there was great concern regarding the imminent increase in the number of trucking companies that was sure to follow the removal of the barriers to entry into the industry. Congress believed it would be difficult for the federal regulators, alone, to provide effective oversight for safe operations for such a large number of companies. Congress intended the Secretary of Transportation to set insurance minimums at a level significant enough to provide an appropriate means of compensation to truck crash victims if crashes occurred and also to cause the insurance companies to provide effective, on site underwriting so that the insurance market would provide incentives for safe operations of motor carriers.

Congress set the absolute minimum level of insurance to be applied to motor carriers of property and of hazardous materials at $750,000 and $5,000,000, respectively, and gave the Secretary of Transportation authority to increase such amounts to appropriate levels that would achieve the intended purpose.  Unfortunately, the minimum amounts set by Congress as the absolute floor were too low to provide the intended underwriting supervision and too low to provide protection for the public. Nonetheless, in spite of an exponential growth of the number of authorized motor carriers (approximately 27,000 prior to deregulation compared to more than 500,000 in existence today), the Secretary has never increased the bare minimums set by Congress, and the low original minimum amounts, over the past 35 years, have provided less and less of an incentive to operate safely and have become almost insignificant when compared to the damages caused by the huge trucks now allowed on public highways.  Indeed, many “minimum” policies are already written at the $1,000,000 level because the $750,000 amount is so absurdly low.

Crash Costs

When the above numbers were set as part of the deregulation process, the amounts were considered to be the absolute minimums necessary for protection of the public. Since then, not only have all of the expenses associated with truck crashes increased dramatically, the sheer disparity in size between cars and trucks has increased resulting in more severe crashes. In that same time, trailers were allowed to expand first to 48’ in length, and then to 53’. Truck weight increases, both across the board and through exemptions, have also occurred. Combined with the increase in crash expenses and damages, such as lost income and medical expenses, the lack of any adjustment since 1980 has caused a greater disparity between the original amount and current costs.

The common approach by an insurance company for a trucking company with only the required minimums in liability coverage, when the trucking company causes a catastrophe with damages that far exceed the insurance, is to “interplead” the insurance limits. This is done by the insurance company suing all of the people injured and the families of those killed in one suit, with the insurance company offering to pay the ridiculously low limits of the policy into court and to require those injured and those who have lost loved ones to fight (or “interplead”) among themselves as to who should get what. The number of interpleader actions has risen dramatically as the required minimum insurance levels have fallen significantly short of the damages actually caused by truck crashes.

The effect of the lack of adequate insurance is that the damages caused by certain segments of the industry are not borne by those causing them. The damage caused by the underinsured are spread out among the innocent motorists who are killed and injured, who frequently have no effective recourse against the companies that caused their losses.

A common type of truck crash involves a fatigued truck driver who crashes into traffic that has stopped on the highway due to congestion, a prior crash or a construction zone. These crashes typically involve multiple vehicles, multiple deaths, and multiple injuries. The total damages caused in such cases can easily exceed $20,000,000, but an insurance company with minimum limits will simply sue everyone involved in an interpleader action and the unprotected crash victims are left to do the best with what they have to try to put their lives back together. Frequently, the injured and disabled end up relying on Medicaid, Social Security or other government programs because smaller trucking companies do not have to pay for the cost of the damages they cause. This amounts to a taxpayer subsidy for the companies that don’t carry enough insurance to cover the damages they cause, while adequately insured companies bear such expenses as part of their business.

Unfair Competition

The low limits allowed by law are frequently carried by trucking companies that have minimal owned assets; companies that lease their terminals and equipment or otherwise leverage their operations. Even if an injured person obtains a legal judgment in excess of the low insurance limits, the companies have simply gone out of business and the owners have started up a new business under another name. This dangerous practice, referred to as reincarnating or chameleon carriers, was described in a July 2009 report by the GAO.

Larger, nationwide companies, which are adequately capitalized on the other hand, have much higher limits. It is common for the larger carriers to carry multiple layers of coverage, sometimes with a significant self-insured retention, with totals exceeding $30,000,000. These companies carry adequate amounts because they have “something to lose” and they know too well the significant damages that can be caused when a commercial truck hits a passenger vehicle or vehicles.

The larger companies have significant incentive to make their operations as safe as possible rather than simply gamble against the risk of a catastrophic crash. As a result, they have higher insurance overhead costs to protect against potential losses, yet they have to compete with companies that have nothing to lose (and others willing to put the public at risk) that carry the minimum basic coverage. The companies with “nothing to lose” are effectively subsidized by the victimized motoring public and government programs that absorb the uninsured losses. The low limits, then, create exactly the opposite effect that minimum insurance levels were intended to provide. Rather than increasing overall safety within the industry by creating an economic incentive to operate safely, the low levels create a more dangerous situation through unfair competition by allowing the losses of the most irresponsible companies to be subsidized by the public while responsible companies pay the full amount of the damages they cause.

Minimums That Should be Required

The industry should have to absorb the losses it causes. Crashes involving multiple deaths and injuries, along with any property/infrastructure damage, with total combined damages far exceeding the current minimums happen every week. In order for the minimums to serve the purpose for which they were intended, the limits need to be set sufficiently high to give the insurance companies a reason to set realistic underwriting standards that would reward safe companies and identify unsafe operations. The limits should also reflect the real devastation and damages that are caused when an 80,000 pound truck slams into traffic stopped or slowed in a construction zone. In order to have these effects, property-carrying motor carriers should be required to carry at least $10,000,000 per occurrence. If inflation alone were to be addressed the amount would need to be $2.2 million.

FMCSA Report on Minimum Financial Responsibility

In April 2014, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released a report on its review of minimum financial responsibility that found current levels to be inadequate. It found that costs for severe and critical injury crashes can easily exceed $1 million.  The study only identified a small number of crashes that exceeded minimum insurance levels due to the lack of available settlement data. Insurance settlements for amounts that exceed the minimum levels often contain a nondisclosure agreement, and this information is not publicly available. In summary, the report noted that current limits do not adequately cover catastrophic crashes and acknowledged that medical care inflation would increase levels to at least $3.2 million.

Findings from Other Reports on Minimum Financial Responsibility

Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) – This report found that the upper range for liability awards involving death or catastrophic injury is $9–10 million, and recommended that DOT set limits per crash of at least $10 million.

Trucking Alliance Review of Crash Settlements – Member companies of the Trucking Alliance voluntarily tracked 8,692 accident settlements between 2005 and 2011. According to the Trucking Alliance, 42 percent of the injury claims could have had no avenue for offsetting all medical costs.

Conclusion

Congress’ concern of an explosion in the number of motor carriers and the consequential inability of regulation and enforcement to keep our highways safe has become a reality. The intended protective mechanism of federally-required minimum levels of insurance, however, has never adequately performed its intended function.  The amount was never set at a sufficiently high level to require insurance companies to seriously underwrite motor carriers and require safe operations before agreeing to insure them and, over time, the minimum amount has become totally inadequate. Death and catastrophic injuries have become accepted as part of the cost of doing business, with most of that cost being shifted to non-industry members of the motoring public and to the American taxpayers. The Secretary of Transportation has the authority and the responsibility to ensure the Congressional intent of the required financial responsibility is achieved.  The Secretary should exercise her authority in this regard and set the minimums at responsible levels that will encourage safe underwriting and safe operations as was intended by Congress.

Summary

Minimum levels of insurance for trucks have not been increased in over 35 years and are woefully insufficient.

Consequently, a large portion of the damages and losses caused by motor carriers at or near the minimum is imposed upon the American motoring public.

The underinsured segments of the industry are effectively subsidized by American taxpayers through unreimbursed social welfare programs including Medicaid and Social Security.

If all of the industry were required to absorb more of the losses they cause, significant changes in the industry would occur, resulting in safer highways for all.

 

FMCSA Steps Closer to Correcting Insufficient Minimum Insurance Requirements for Motor Carriers

FMCSA STEPS CLOSER TO CORRECTING INSUFFICIENT MINIMUM INSURANCE REQUIREMENTS FOR MOTOR CARRIERS

Truck Crash Survivors and Families of Truck Crash Victims Support Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Urge FMCSA to Ensure that Truck Crash Damages are Adequately Addressed

WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 2, 2014) – On Friday, November 28, 2014, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued an advanced noticed of proposed rulemaking to evaluate options for increasing the level of minimum insurance requirements and for future rulemaking. Minimum insurance is the absolute bare minimum amount of insurance coverage that trucks are required to carry in order to operate, and should adequately cover the damages resulting from a truck crash. Minimum insurance on motor carriers has not been revised for over 30 years since it was set at $750,000 for carriers of property. Increases to minimum insurance for 30 years of medical care inflation are necessary and long overdue. Current minimum insurance levels for motor carriers frequently fail to adequately cover the property damage and human costs caused by truck crashes.  As a result, private citizens are forced to unfairly subsidize motor carriers that comply with federal rules yet still lack sufficient insurance coverage. Last week’s step toward rulemaking follows decades of truck safety advocacy by families who have been personally impacted as a result of insufficient minimum insurance requirements.

Kate Brown, Truck Safety Coalition (TSC) Illinois Volunteer Coordinator and Illinois State Freight Advisory Committee (ISFAC) member after her son Graham was permanently, partially disabled in a 2005 truck crash said, “Our families’ losses are two-fold.  First, we are forced to bear the costs of a lifetime of grief and suffering when loved ones are needlessly killed and endure debilitating injuries. Second, we are forced to assume a tremendous financial burden that drains our savings and threatens our financial security.”  Brown added, “Graham’s medical bills exceeded the carrier’s insurance within the first couple of months of his hospitalization. Our personal savings and retirement accounts were sacrificed to get him the care he needed.”

Minimum insurance requirements should be increased immediately to compensate for 30 years of medical care cost inflation. Additionally, the minimum insurance level should be reassessed on a yearly basis to ensure that it is fulfilling its intention. Truck crashes have the capacity to inflict catastrophic damages on multiple victims and families. Motor carriers should be required to carry adequate insurance per claimant, rather than per crash so that each person involved in the crash has access to sufficient resources in order to cover the loss of their loved ones, their medical expenses, loss of income and loss of property.

Jackie Novak, TSC Volunteer, said, “Some segments of the motor carrier industry choose not to have sufficient insurance to cover all of their damages caused in a crash. The Department of Transportation (DOT) is aware of the gap between insurance coverage and costs, and has been exceedingly slow to issue a rule to close the gap. Every day that they fail to do so is an unconscionable burden on our families.”

Novak’s son, Charles “Chuck” Novak, and his girlfriend, Theresa Seaver, were killed in a 2010 truck crash that claimed the lives of three others. A total of 15 were killed or injured in that crash. Novak added, “The motor carrier that caused the crash only held a $1 million policy, slightly higher than the minimum now required under federal rule.”

Marianne Karth, a TSC Volunteer, after losing her daughters AnnaLeah and Mary in a 2013 truck crash that also injured Marianne and her son, launched the “AnnaLeah and Mary Stand Up For Truck Safety” petition. The Karth family gained more than 11,000 supporters seeking to improve truck safety and specifically to raise minimum insurance level requirements. The Karths delivered the petition to the U.S. DOT in May 2014.

Karth said, “We urge the FMCSA to heed the groundswell of support to increase minimum insurance levels that is evident in our petition. Act expediently! Thirty years of insufficient coverage is long enough. Families that pay such a high emotional price should not be forced to also bear the financial burden for their loss from a truck crash.”

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Truck Safety Advocates in the News

Two of our volunteers are now featured in two recent articles published by Bloomberg News. In these articles, Marianne Karth and Ed Slattery, speak out about their personal experiences on living after a tragedy.

After Marianne lost two of her daughters, AnnaLeah and Mary, in a truck crash last year, she turned her pain into advocacy. Marianne started a petition directed at Secretary Foxx that accrued over 11,000 signatures. The petition urges the Department of Transportation Secretary to address the truck safety issues that could have helped prevent the truck crash that killed her daughters. In the petition, Marianne asks him to (1) raise the minimum levels of insurance required for truck drivers, (2) decrease driver fatigue and monitor their hours on the road with Electronic Logging Devices, and (3) take needed steps to improve underride guards.

Karth turned to Facebook, created her own website and sent more than 11,000 petitions to pressure U.S. regulators, including Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, in a bid to force safer trucking practices and equipment.

Speaking about her advocacy work, Marianne told Bloomberg News,

If there’s anything I can do to help prevent some other family from having to go through the same thing, then it’s worth it.

Ed’s wife, Susan, was killed and son, Matthew, was permanently injured in a truck crash. According to the article,

Matthew is making slow and steady progress, yet will always need care.

The Truck driver responsible for the crash has since lost his job and was sentenced to prison, after admitting to falling asleep while driving. Much of Ed’s story involves conflict with the driver, and as the article states,

Their combined experiences add up to a tale of loss, forgiveness and denial that is still evolving.

At the heart of this story, however, is Ed’s relationship with his son. Speaking about Matthew, Ed tells Bloomberg News,

I love him so much it hurts.

See How Your Representative Voted: The Daines Amendment

On June 10, 2014, an amendment to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill,sponsored by Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT), passed by a close vote of 214 to 212. The Daines amendment prohibits FMCSA from increasing the amount of insurance required for motor carriers, which has not been increased in over 30 years and are woefully insufficient.

You can see how your Representative voted here.

Karth Family to Deliver Truck Safety Petition To U.S. DOT

Contact: Beth Weaver beth_weaver@verizon.net 301.814.4088

NORTH CAROLINA FAMILY MARKS ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF FATAL TRUCK CRASH THAT CLAIMED THE LIVES OF THEIR TWO TEENAGE DAUGHTERS

Karth Family To Deliver Truck Safety Petition To U.S. DOT

On Monday, May 5, Marianne and Jerry Karth and members of their family, will deliver their “AnnaLeah and Mary Stand Up for Truck Safety” petition to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) in Washington, D.C. The petition asks DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx to use his authority to immediately make truck safety improvements to issues that may have contributed to the loss of the Karth daughters AnnaLeah (17) and Mary (13).  Photos of the Karth family and the petition delivery will be available at www.trucksafety.org.

The Karth petition, a grassroots effort which received over 11,000 signatures, asks the Secretary to make long overdue improvements to truck safety by immediately increasing the minimum insurance level to account for over 30 years of inflation without a single increase, releasing a rule for improved rear underride guard standards to protect car occupants in truck crashes, and releasing the final rule for electronic logging devices (ELDs) to reduce truck driver fatigue. The Karth family will meet with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Administrator (FMCSA) Anne Ferro and National Highway Transportation Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) Acting Administrator David Friedman to deliver the petition and discuss truck safety issues.

“Advocating for these changes helps with the grief because it gives us an opportunity to make a difference,” said Marianne Karth. “There is some healing that goes with that, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t hard. Fighting for these changes stirs up all those memories that we went through, but it gives us hope that other families won’t have to go through what we’ve been through.”

On May 4, 2013, as the Karth family drove to Texas to celebrate four graduations and a wedding, their car was hit from behind by a truck that was unable to stop in time for slowed traffic. The impact spun their car around and forced it backward and underneath a second truck’s trailer. Marianne and her son were in the front seats and survived the impact with injuries. AnnaLeah and Mary were in the back seats, which went underneath the trailer, and died as a result of catastrophic injuries.

On September 12, 2013, Marianne Karth joined Truck Safety Coalition members and safety advocates for a meeting with Secretary Foxx, FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro and then NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. Secretary Foxx promised tangible progress within a short period of time on the truck safety issues discussed at the meeting. Administrator Strickland added that there would be a decision for underride guards on his desk by November 2013. To bring attention to these safety issues and honor the memories of their daughters, AnnaLeah and Mary, on the first anniversary of the crash the Karth family began a petition asking Secretary Foxx to fulfill his promise.

“We are asking Secretary Foxx to take three specific actions to implement tangible solutions which will bring immediate improvements in truck safety issues,” said Marianne Karth. “Unnecessary delays may have cost Mary and AnnaLeah their lives. How many more lives will be lost due to delay?”

The Truck Safety Coalition, www.trucksafety.org, is a partnership between Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT) dedicated to reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused by truck crashes, providing compassionate support to truck crash survivors and families of truck crash victims, and educating the public, policymakers and media about truck safety issues.

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FMCSA Report Confirms Minimum Insurance is Too Low

Contact: Beth Weaver

301.814.4088/beth_weaver@verizon.net

 FMCSA Report Verifies Financial Responsibility Requirement Deficiency

Safety Groups and Truck Crash Victims Urge FMCSA To Act Quickly To Increase Requirement Level

Families and Taxpayers Should Not be Forced to Bear Uninsured Costs

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 22, 2014) – Truck crash victims and safety advocates responded positively to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) report on commercial motor vehicle financial responsibility requirements, Examining the Appropriateness of the Current Financial Responsibility and Security Requirements for Motor Carriers, Brokers, and Freight Forwarders – Report to Congress, and at the same time rejected the Owner Operator Independent Driver Association (OOIDA) claim that increases are unnecessary. The report, directed by the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (P.L. 112 – 141, Section 32104), found that current financial responsibility minimums are inadequate, and supports efforts by Members of Congress, safety groups and responsible truck industry participants to secure an increase in financial responsibility requirements.

“Over 30 years ago, Congress set the minimum insurance rule for trucks and motor carriers at $750,000 to cover everyone impacted in a crash, whether it’s two, ten or twenty people killed and injured,” said Kate Brown, Illinois Volunteer Coordinator, Truck Safety Coalition (TSC) and Member, Illinois State Freight Advisory Committee, whose son was severely injured in a truck crash. “The amount of coverage has not changed in over 30 years. During that time, trucks have gotten bigger and heavier, inflation has gone up, medical care costs have skyrocketed and many truck crashes now result in damages that exceed several million dollars. When the insurance coverage falls short, the American public is left to foot the bill for these injuries and losses like I had to do when my son was injured.”

In 1980, the Motor Carrier Act was passed in response to deregulation of the trucking industry, setting financial responsibility levels for motor carriers to “assure that public safety is not jeopardized,” and to reduce concerns that safe drivers would be pressured to cut costs in order to be competitive “…by operating in violation of minimum safety standards.”  Financial responsibility levels were to be set at a level “sufficient to require ‘on site’ inspection by the insurance company, with minimums to be updated regularly.” Unfortunately, levels were not set high enough to accomplish this goal, and regular updates have never occurred. In effect, this lowered the minimum required, and allowed undercapitalized carriers to enter the market with minimal or no underwriting from insurance companies, which is the complete opposite result that was intended when the federal government set a minimum level.

Jackie Novak, TSC North Carolina Volunteer, whose son Chuck Novak and his girlfriend Theresa Seaver were killed in a crash in Henderson County, North Carolina said, “The total number of fatalities and injuries in the crash that killed Chuck was 15. The motor carrier that caused the crash only held a $1 million policy, slightly higher than the minimum now required, which had to be split among five families who lost loved ones and ten injured, as well as all other parties who had a claim to the settlement, such as emergency responders. The insurance did not come close to covering medical costs, or providing for surviving families and children, like my grandson.” Novak added, “The American people unknowingly subsidize the uninsured costs of the trucking industry through programs such as Medicaid and Social Security. When financial responsibility is set so low, and costs are passed on to the victims, there is no deterrent for unsafe behavior.”

Marianne Karth, who lost her daughters AnnaLeah and Mary nearly one year ago in a truck crash that also injured Marianne and her son, said, “I couldn’t believe it when I learned how low financial responsibility requirements were set and that they hadn’t been increased in decades. No one, and that includes truck drivers, should have to deal with astronomical medical costs and potential personal financial ruin on top of the tragedy of losing family members. I ask OOIDA to reconsider their position on this issue, and to acknowledge that they sell truck insurance and are therefore not themselves a neutral party.” Karth continued, “My family and I have launched our ‘AnnaLeah and Mary Stand Up for Truck Safety’ petition to urge Secretary Foxx to immediately increase minimum insurance levels to, at the bare minimum, account for 30 years of medical care inflation, as well as, to address outstanding truck safety improvements. We hope to personally present him with over 15,000 signatures in a couple of weeks, and that the message we bring will prevent other families from unnecessarily suffering when there are readily available solutions to truck safety issues.”

To add your signature to the “AnnaLeah and Mary Stand Up for Truck Safety” petition, please go to: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/957/501/869/stand-up-for-truck-safety/

The Truck Safety Coalition is a partnership between Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.) dedicated to reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused by truck-related crashes, providing compassionate support to truck crash survivors and families of truck crash victims, and educating the public, policymakers and media about truck safety issues. More information is available at www.trucksafety.org.

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The AnnaLeah & Mary Karth Petition: STAND UP FOR TRUCK SAFETY

Each year 4,000 people are killed and another 100,000 people are injured in truck crashes. This is an unacceptably high number of losses and injuries, but most people don’t know about these numbers or the safety equipment that can protect people on the roads until they or someone they know has their lives forever altered in a crash involving a semi truck.

Karth Crash
Karth Crash Photo

We found out the hard way all about how important truck safety is when AnnaLeah (age 17) and Mary (age 13) were killed in an accident involving two semi trucks on May 4, 2013. In a meeting on September 12th, 2013, with the Truck Safety Coalition and Secretary of Transportation Foxx to discuss truck safety issues, Foxx stated, “I can promise you tangible progress in a short period of time.” As a member of the Cabinet, Foxx has executive authority to make these changes.

Sign the Petition

Click Here to Sign the AnnaLeah & Mary Karth Petition: STAND UP FOR TRUCK SAFETY.

At this time, we are initiating an online petition to request Foxx to fulfill his promise and to do everything he can to protect our families on the road and prevent more senseless tragedies by ensuring that the following truck safety improvements are made:

We are specifically asking Foxx to:

  1. Raise minimum levels of insurance required for truck drivers–which has not been done for over 30 years.
  2. Decrease driver fatigue and monitor their hours on the road with Electronic Logging Devices.
  3. Take needed steps to improve underride guards, which prevent vehicles from sliding under trucks–causing horrific injuries and tragic deaths.

We will print each signed petition and put them in separate envelopes. Then, on May 5, 2014, we will take these envelopes to Washington, D.C. and meet with DOT to remember AnnaLeah & Mary and to promote truck safety.

A Mom’s Story: Why we are asking for change

What You Can Do To Help

1. Sign the petition and share our story & petition with others, http://bit.ly/1gN3jQf :

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Tumblr
  • Google+
  • Blogs which you write
  • Any other conversations which you engage in…

2. Organize efforts to get signatures from members of a group to which you belong.

  • Advertise The AnnaLeah & Mary Petition: STAND UP FOR TRUCK SAFETY to your group.
  • Encourage group members (and everyone else you know) to sign the online petition by providing them with this link: http://bit.ly/1gN3jQf .
  • To print out a petition, go to http://annaleahmary.com/petition.pdf
  • Arrange a time to have the printed petitions available for group members to sign—making sure that they include their contact information as indicated on the form.

NOTE: Be sure that they only sign ONE petition: either the online OR printed version—NOT both. Mail the signed petitions to us—POSTMARKED NO LATER than April 21, 2014:
Jerry & Marianne Karth

2800 Ridgecrest Drive

Rocky Mount, NC 27803

3. Find out more about Our Story and about Truck Safety Issues:

  • We have set up a website in memory of AnnaLeah & Mary and for the promotion of truck safety advocacy: http://annaleahmary.com
  • After our accident, we were contacted by volunteers from the Truck Safety Coalition–other people who had lost loved ones in truck crashes–and provided with helpful information and support in the wake of our tragedy.The Truck Safety Coalition is a partnership between The Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) Foundation, and Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T). The Truck Safety Coalition (TSC) is dedicated to reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused by truck-related crashes, providing compassionate support to truck crash survivors and families of truck crash victims, and educating the public, policy-makers and media about truck safety issues.For more information on truck safety issues and to sign up for newsletters and updates, please visit the rest of the Truck Safety Coalition’s website.

Please pray for this effort to be fruitful and make a difference for those who travel on the roads of our country.

Thank you,

Jerry & Marianne

Rep. Cartwright Introduces Legislation to Keep Highways Safe and Protect Victims’ Rights

On July 18, 2013, Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) introduced the Safe and Fair Environment on Highways Achieved through Underwriting Levels Act (H.R. 2730) or “A SAFE HAUL.” The SAFE HAUL Act calls for an increase in  minimum insurance requirements for motor carriers from $750,000 to $4.42 million.  To read more, click here.

The Truck Safety Coalition Supports the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Enhancement Act of 2011, S.1950

In 2010 truck crash fatalities increased by almost nine percent, from 3,380 in 2009 to 3,675 in 2010.

We support the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Enhancement Act of 2011, S.1950 and urge Congress to retain the safety improvements therein including:

Improved Registration Requirements for Motor Carriers (Title I): a written proficiency exam for applicant MCs; restrictions on “reincarnated” MCs; evaluating minimum financial responsibility (insurance) requirements; increased penalties for operating without registration; the ability to revoke registration for unsafe operations causing imminent hazard

Improved CMV Safety (Title II): evaluation of crashworthiness standards for CMVs; improving accountability of foreign MCs

Improved Driver Safety (Title III): requiring electronic on board recorders (EOBRs); creation of a safety fitness rating methodology; establishing a National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners; development of a plan for a National Driver Record Notification System; minimum entry-level training requirements for CMV operators, including behind-the-wheel

“Safe Roads Act” (Title IV): establishing a National Clearinghouse for Controlled Substance and Alcohol Test Results of CMV operators
 
Improved Enforcement (Title V): increases penalties for most egregious offenders (out of service and financial penalties)
 
“Compliance, Safety, Accountability” (Title VI): establishes CSA grant program; new entrant safety assurance grant program; border enforcement grant program; high priority grant program
 
“Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act” (Title VII)
 
“Safe Highways and Infrastructure Preservation” (Title VIII): truck size and weight study including crash frequency and causes on NHS where overweight trucks are permitted, and infrastructure impacts; compilation of existing size and weight exemptions on the NHS
 
“Miscellaneous” (Title IX): study of detention time and HOS violations