Colorado lawmakers approve owner-operators occupational accident insurance

May 2, 2022

Keith Goble

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Work is complete at the Colorado statehouse on a bill that addresses coverage requirements for occupational accident insurance. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association supports the effort.

House lawmakers voted 54-8 to approve a bill to give owner-operators the option to purchase an occupational accident policy, commonly referred to as Occ/Acc, as an alternative to workers’ compensation.

The bill, SB35, now heads to the governor’s desk. The Senate already approved the bill by unanimous consent.

Sponsored by Sen. Robert Rodriguez, D-Denver, and Rep. Shannon Bird, D-Westminster, the bill 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 House Business Affairs and Labor Committee members. “Our laws should support their entrepreneurial spirit and provide them with protections that are appropriate for the work they do.”

OOIDA members back 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 prohibits 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 times 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 driver 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, bust 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.

Team effort

Matousek adds that the change was a long-time coming.

“While it was an unnecessarily long process, Colorado state lawmakers have finally passed a bill that will make occupational-accident coverage available to leased owner-operators.”

He credited the work of Greg Fulton and the Colorado Motor Carriers Association, and OOIDA Life Member Rick Ash of Johnstown, Colo., for getting to this point.

Matousek said that he is proud of the support that OOIDA also has provided.

“Team efforts are usually more successful than going at it alone.” LL

More Land Line coverage of news from Colorado.

 

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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.