OOIDA says it can’t support highway bill with minimum insurance amendment

June 18, 2020

Mark Schremmer

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An amendment that OOIDA referred to as a “poison pill” to a $500 billion highway bill was approved via a roll call vote during the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s markup hearing on June 17.

Proposed by Rep. Chuy Garcia, D-Ill., the amendment to the INVEST in America Act calls for the minimum insurance requirements for motor carriers to be increased from $750,000 to $2 million.

OOIDA has long contended that there is no correlation between insurance coverage and highway safety and that drastically increasing the insurance minimum would likely force many small motor carriers out of business. Doing so, the Association said the amendment would actually decrease safety as it would remove some of the most experienced and safest truck drivers from the industry.

“This amendment will do absolutely nothing to improve safety on our highways,” OOIDA President and CEO Todd Spencer said. “What this proposal will do is destroy small-trucking businesses in every corner of the country.

“Small-business truckers have been working around the clock to keep the country healthy, while risking their personal well-being and struggling to stay in business due to historically low freight rates caused by COVID-19. Unnecessarily increasing their insurance rates is not the way to thank them.”

OOIDA points to research that shows only 0.06% of crashes result in damages that exceed the current $750,000 minimum.

OOIDA had indicated support for the initial version of the highway bill, which included increased funding for highway construction, $250 million for truck parking projects, new restrictions on tolling, limits to excessive detention time and predatory lease-to-own schemes, and further analysis on H-1B visa use within the trucking industry.

The Association said the inclusion of Garcia’s amendment to increase minimum insurance requirements forces the Association to remove its support for the bill.

“Passage of the amendment would be a poison pill for OOIDA and our members, forcing us to vigorously oppose a bill we otherwise support,” the Association wrote in a letter to lawmakers in advance of the markup hearing. “We urge all members of the committee to reject this unnecessary and punitive proposal.”

Underride guards

Another proposed amendment opposed by OOIDA was rejected by a voice vote on Thursday, June 18.

Rep. Stephen Cohen, D-Tenn., proposed an amendment that would mandate a side underride guard pilot program.

OOIDA said that side underride guards are an unproven technology that would create “operational challenges and economic hardships” for small-business truckers. The Association also points to reports from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that have said federal mandates on side underride guards would be impractical and costly.

Truck parking

An amendment that would have eliminated funding to address the truck parking shortage crisis also was rejected by a voice vote.

OOIDA opposed an amendment by Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Mich., to remove $250 million included in the bill to go toward expanding truck parking capacity. The Association said the $250 million included in the bill isn’t enough to fully address the problem but recognizes the measure as a good start.

“To consider eliminating this funding is unconscionable,” OOIDA wrote. “A vote in favor of this amendment is in favor of the status quo, which ignores the needs of truckers and makes their profession more challenging and dangerous.”

Meanwhile, an amendment proposed by Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., related to truck parking was approved by a voice vote. The amendment, which is supported by OOIDA, prohibits truck parking grant recipients from charging fees to park at facilities constructed or repurposed with public funds.

COVID-19 testing

Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., proposed an amendment requiring the U.S. Department of Transportation to prioritize COVID-19 testing for critical infrastructure workers.

The amendment, which OOIDA supports, was approved via an en bloc voice vote.

As of Thursday afternoon, the markup hearing was still in progress.

Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.