An amendment to a bill circulating on Capitol Hill would more than double the required minimum amount of insurance for commercial motor vehicles.
Currently, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration-required minimum coverage is $750,000, but the adjustment increases that amount to $2 million.
The amendment to the INVEST Act was passed by a House committee on Wednesday. The measure, introduced by Illinois Democrat Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García, was lauded by the Institute for Safer Trucking, which noted that the required minimum has not been raised since the 1980s.
“This amendment will help families who have survived truck crashes and help make the trucking industry safer,” the group wrote in a Twitter post.
García said the increase would ensure insurance requirements keep up with inflation. He also said it is not “an attack on truckers,” but rather about supporting families who have lost loved ones.
The amendment is part of a larger bill that would still need to pass both the House and the Senate.
As previously reported by FOX Business, insurance costs have been a point of contention for the industry due to a number of nuclear verdicts, which refer to jury awards where the penalty is in excess of $10 million.
One of the most notable cases involved comedian Tracy Morgan, who was involved in an accident with a Walmart-operated truck that resulted in the death of another man. The family of the dead man was awarded $10 million – though the case never was brought before a jury. Morgan, who suffered injuries, settled with the company for an undisclosed amount.
Penalties have gotten larger throughout recent years. According to law firm Roetzel & Andress, between 2012 and 2015, 12 verdicts resulted in $900 million worth of awards.
Following one accident in 2017, a jury decided that CWRV Transport should be held liable for an accident – even though the driver was a private contractor. The wrongful death award was $26.6 million.
John Kearney, president and CEO of Advanced Training Systems, previously told FOX Business the litigation environment has changed because lawyers have begun to go after companies – rather than individual drivers – for their training, retraining or maintenance training policies.
“If you have an accident and the opposing law firm questions where you train, there seems to now be an assumption that if you have an accident you must not have been trained adequately,” Kearney said. “That assumption means you lose a lawsuit.”
While bigger companies may be able to afford rising insurance costs, smaller companies can’t.
According to data from the American Trucking Research Institute, insurance premium costs per mile have increased more than 17 percent since 2013. Between 2017 and 2018 alone, they rose 12 percent. In 2018, they were about $0.8 per mile.