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.”