OOIDA rallies members against Rep. Garcia’s Insurance Act
May 24, 2021
•Land Line Staff
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is asking its members to let Rep. Jesus Chuy Garcia know that his bill to increase the minimum insurance requirement by 556% would be devastating to small-business truckers.
In April, Garcia, D-Ill., reintroduced the Insurance Act, HR2687, which would increase motor carriers’ minimum liability insurance from $750,000 to $4.92 million. While the text of HR2687 still hadn’t been released on Congress.gov, the office of Garcia, D-Ill., confirmed with Land Line on Monday, May 17, that the bill is “identical” to HR3781, which Garcia introduced in the House as part of the previous congressional session.
OOIDA emailed its members on Monday, May 24, asking them to call Garcia’s office and let him know they oppose the bill.
The Association’s members apparently heeded the call. OOIDA said it received reports about 20 minutes after sending the notice to its members that Garcia’s office had stopped answering calls and that their voicemail was full.
Collin Long, OOIDA’s director of government affairs, encouraged members to keep trying to reach Garcia’s office even if they are unsuccessful at first.
“If Rep. Garcia is going to promote legislation that would kill every small trucking business in the country, he should be prepared to hear from every small-business trucker on the road,” Long said. “The Congressman may have turned off his phone and his voicemail may be full, but that shouldn’t stop truckers from telling him how devastating and unnecessary this bill is.
“If you don’t get through today, call tomorrow. If you don’t get through tomorrow, keep trying until you’ve told someone in that office what you think of this ridiculous proposal. Just remember, it’s all right to be frustrated by Congressman Garcia’s action, but it’s not OK to treat his staff poorly.”
Insurance Act opposition
According to proponents of the measure, the Insurance Act is necessary as the minimum insurance requirement has not been increased since 1980.
OOIDA, however, notes that most motor carriers already carry $1 million in insurance and that a 2014 federal study found that the current minimum insurance level adequately covered damages in all about 0.6% of the cases.
The Association said the bill is motivated by trial lawyers.
“It should come as no surprise that Rep. Garcia is working with his trial lawyer allies to exponentially boost current insurance levels, as they typically receive 30-40% of a settlement against a motor carrier,” OOIDA wrote. “This bill would line the pockets of trial lawyers at the expense of hard-working truckers, and it would do nothing to improve highway safety.”
OOIDA contends that the bill actually would decrease safety as it would force many of the industry’s safest drivers out of business.
“Clearly, Congressman Garcia needs a reminder about why HR2687 is so dangerous,” OOIDA wrote. “Please call his office today and tell him that the bill is another unnecessary and expensive federal mandate that will force the safest and most experienced truckers off the road.”
HR2687 only has eight co-sponsors so far. However, OOIDA also is fighting to prevent any version of the Insurance Act from making it into the next highway bill. In 2020, Garcia added an amendment to the HR2 that would have increased the minimum insurance requirement for motor carriers to $2 million – a 166.6% increase.
While a bump to $2 million would be far less than the Insurance Act’s proposed $4.92 million, OOIDA said the increase is still unnecessary and that nearly tripling the minimum requirement would still be disastrous for small carriers. When the amendment was added to HR2 last year, OOIDA said the measure would be the highway bill’s poison pill. After passing the House, the bill died in the Senate.
OOIDA is working with a coalition of about 60 organizations from the agriculture, manufacturing, materials, and towing industries to oppose a minimum insurance increase of any kind. In May, the coalition sent letters to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Blue Dog Coalition and Problem Solvers Caucus in hopes of swaying enough votes to block any such measure. Earlier this year, the coalition also questioned Garcia’s reasoning for speaking out against an increase to the passenger rail liability cap while proposing a 556% increase for motor carriers.
“Like commuter railroads, motor carriers are required to carry liability insurance to cover unlikely catastrophic incidents,” the coalition wrote. “Motor carriers currently face many of the same challenges you raised in your letter when navigating the commercial auto liability insurance market. Increasing their minimum insurance requirements would only exacerbate these problems.” LL