Colorado bill would make available to owner-operators occupational accident insurance

April 28, 2022

Keith Goble

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A pursuit nearing passage at the Colorado statehouse addresses coverage requirements for occupational accident insurance. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association supports the effort.

The House Business Affairs and Labor Committee voted unanimously on Wednesday, April 27, to advance a Senate-approved bill to give owner-operators the option to purchase an occupational accident policy as an alternative to workers’ compensation.

Sponsored by Sen. Robert Rodriguez, D-Denver, and Rep. Shannon Bird, D-Westminster, SB35 would allow a commercial operator who meets certain requirements to purchase an occupational accident insurance policy rather than a workers’ compensation policy.

Bill sponsors wrote in the legislation that “the option is readily available in other states, but due to restrictions in current Colorado law similar affordable policies cannot be offered in Colorado unless a change is made to the law.”

They say that providing the occupational accident option would allow small trucking companies in the state to compete in neighboring states that already provide the option.

“We shouldn’t have laws that force these small business owners to purchase costly products and services that they don’t need,” Bird told committee members. “Our laws should support their entrepreneurial spirit and provide them with protections that are appropriate for the work they do.”

OOIDA members want change

Mike Matousek, OOIDA director of state legislative affairs, said the Association represents more than 2,000 independent truck drivers and small motor carriers who live in Colorado.

“Our members are generally those that are directly impacted by Colorado’s existing Occ/Acc requirements, which effectively prohibit them from purchasing Occ/Acc coverage,” he said.

Matousek told bill sponsors that OOIDA has surveyed Colorado members and they said resoundingly that they want occupational accident coverage as an alternative to workers’ compensation.

“Occ/Acc tends to be a preferred alternative because it is more affordable, provides unique benefits, and includes coverage for nonwork-related accidents,” Matousek said in a letter to bill sponsors. “It is portable, which means if truck drivers move to another state, they can keep their coverage.”

He adds that workers’ compensation is more expensive, not portable, and often does not reflect the needs of the person being covered.

Additionally, he pointed out to lawmakers that most owner-operators start their career in trucking as an employee drivers, and at some point they choose to become an owner-operator.

“This means that not only are owner-operators among the most experienced drivers on the road, they also have plenty of opportunities to be an employee driver, but some people simply prefer to be in business for themselves.”

Matousek said that owner-operators who live in Colorado are in a dilemma where they are unable to purchase an occupational accident policy, or paying for a workers’ compensation policy that might not cover them if something were to happen.

SB35 would resolve the problem.

The bill next heads to the House floor. If approved there, it would head to the governor’s desk. Senate lawmakers approved the bill on April 20 by unanimous consent. LL

More Land Line coverage of news from Colorado.

 

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.