Rep. Bost deems insurance increase a ‘punishment’ to truckers

June 10, 2021

Mark Schremmer

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An “unnecessary” increase to motor carriers’ minimum insurance requirements would serve as punishment to the nation’s truckers, Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill, told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee during a 19-hour highway bill markup hearing on Wednesday, June 9.

Bost, who was raised in a trucking family, spoke passionately in favor of his amendment to remove a provision from the INVEST in America Act that would increase the minimum liability insurance from $750,000 to $2 million.

“Over the past year during the time of this pandemic we’ve relied pretty hard on the working people who drive trucks across the nation,” Bost said. “These men and women continue their essential work by stocking store shelves and making sure food was put on everyone’s table, and (getting us) the supplies we needed while many of us were trapped in our homes. Now, after praising these individuals for their great work, this legislation turns around and punishes them.”

Several other House Republicans spoke in favor of the amendment, noting that less than 1% of crashes aren’t covered under the current requirement and that the costs will be relayed to households across the nation as the United States attempts to recover from the latest economic crisis.

In spite of more than 30 minutes of debate – largely in favor of the amendment – the T&I Committee stuck mostly to party lines, rejecting Bost’s amendment by a recorded vote of 38-30.

It was one of the more than 200 amendments that were debated during the highway bill markup hearing that lasted until about 5 a.m. on Thursday, June 10. The overnight spectacle ended with the committee approving the five-year, $547 billion INVEST in America Act, HR3684, by a vote of 38-26. The bill is likely to move to the House floor next. A year ago, a similar highway bill passed the House but ultimately died in the Senate.

Minimum insurance

The half-hour of debate on Bost’s amendment to remove the insurance increase on truckers illustrated the mostly partisan nature of the 19-hour hearing. No Democrats voted for the Bost amendment, and only one Republican – Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., – voted against it.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association vigorously opposes any increase to the minimum insurance requirement and was in favor of Bost’s amendment to strike the provision. OOIDA says the measure will do nothing to enhance safety and that the increase will put some of the safest truckers on the road – owner-operators – out of business. OOIDA also is leading a group of more than 60 organizations in the trucking, agriculture, materials, manufacturing and towing industries that are opposed to the 167% increase.

“Democrats on the T&I Committee had a choice to make,” OOIDA President Todd Spencer said. “They could have stood with OOIDA members, farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, builders and every other business engaged with trucking who strongly opposed this increase or vote to further line the pockets of trial lawyers, some of their most reliable political contributors. Unfortunately, they once again uniformly chose trial lawyers over truckers.”

OOIDA lauded the efforts of Reps. Bost, Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Garret Graves (R-La.), Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.), Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), Jefferson Van Drew (R-N.J.), Michael Guest (R-Miss.), Beth Van Duyne (R-Texas), Pete Stauber (R-Minn.), Carlos Gimenez (R-Fla.), Troy Balderson (R-Ohio), and the committee’s ranking member Sam Graves (R-Mo.) for speaking against the insurance hike.

“We want to thank Rep. Bost and his Republican colleagues on the committee for aggressively fighting with us to prevent this unnecessary increase,” Spencer said. “Our fight will continue as this bill moves to the House floor and the Senate advances its own legislation. We’ll work with lawmakers from both parties to stop this harmful policy from ever becoming law.”

Bost said the increase of $1.25 million was a punishment to the nation’s truckers.

“There is not one credible ounce of research that indicates that we needed to increase this and by all means not by (167%),” Bost said.

“Many of you don’t understand this, but I was born and raised and actually ran the family trucking company for 10 years. I know and understand what they go through. I know and understand what they went through this last year, and for all of a sudden to come out and punish them … And it’s true, it’s punishment whenever it isn’t justified to raise it this much.”

A video of Bost’s full remarks can be found here.

Rep. Chuy Garcia (D-Ill.), who introduced the amendment last year to include the increase and also sponsored a standalone bill that would boost the requirement all the way up to $4.92 million, called the 167% increase “modest.” Garcia said the current insurance minimum is inadequate and that his provision also would continue to increase the minimum insurance requirement based on inflation.

“Raising the minimum insurance requirement is a fix in search of a problem,” Graves, R-La., said. “My friend across the aisle made note that this is a ‘modest’ increase. Madam Chair, this a (167%) increase. I’d urge my friends across the aisle that if that’s modest maybe you can make a proposal to make a modest increase to your salary and see how that goes over back home. That is an extraordinary amount of money.”

Graves referenced a June 2021 article from Land Line Magazine that quoted Joe Deems, executive director of the National Risk Retention Association, as saying that an increase would not have any positive effect on safety and has “nothing whatsoever to do with safety.”

Implying that the motivation for the increase comes from trial lawyers, Graves noted that last year he asked for none of the money from the increase to go to attorneys.

“You could hear crickets,” Graves said. “They all knew. They knew that this was exactly what it was designed to do.”

Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., spoke in favor of the increase.

“We know there are truckers out there who perform a service, but we represent people and people are getting injured from time to time by these truckers, and they deserve to have a level of insurance that will protect them,” Johnson said.

Sam Graves, R-Mo., took offense to Johnson’s comments.

“Just listening to some of these comments about protecting people from ‘those truckers … those truckers.’ I heard it over and over again. It’s almost as if they’re the enemy, and they’re not. And I hear this comment that it’s only going to cost a few more dollars in premiums. That’s ridiculous. It’s going to put some of these independent operators out of business, because the amount of money they’re going to have to put up for insurance. It’s going to come down to one simple choice … you either choose those truck drivers who are trying to support their families, or you choose trial attorneys. That’s what it comes down to.”

Although OOIDA said it was disappointed in the failure of the Bost amendment, as well as amendments to remove mandates on automatic emergency braking, side underride guards, and sleep apnea screenings, the Association doesn’t believe the highway bill as it reads today will make it through the Senate.

“While this bill will likely pass the House in a few weeks, we’re relieved it has zero chance of advancing in the U.S. Senate,” Spencer said. “We’re extremely disappointed our efforts to improve the legislation for truckers were flatly rejected by committee Democrats, but many of the most problematic provisions that remain in the bill are simply too controversial to gather sufficient support in the Senate.” LL

 

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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.