‘Work in progress’ truck insurance bill passes Florida Senate committee

April 12, 2023

Land Line Staff


Another Florida bill threatening to limit insurance options for small-business truckers was favorably reported out of a Senate committee Wednesday – after the bill sponsor indicated he was willing to make improvements to the bill.

The Florida Appropriations Committee on Criminal and Civil Justice voted to move forward with SB516, which would put limits on risk retention groups. The decision came in spite of many concerns and unanswered questions – even from lawmakers who voted in favor of the bill.

Truck insurance already expensive

Risk retention groups or RRGs are basically insurance co-ops. Risk retention groups are liability insurance companies owned by their members. They allow businesses with similar insurance needs to pool risks and form an insurance company that operates under state-regulated guidelines.

The bill, as written, would put additional financial burden on risk retention groups, effectively forcing them out of the Florida insurance market and, in turn, limiting competition in the truck insurance market.

During the Committee hearing, Lewie Pugh, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, spoke in opposition to the bill.

“Florida ranks in the top three as far as most expensive states for truckers to obtain commercial auto coverage in. On average, a small-business trucker in the state of Florida is paying $17,000 per truck. (The) national average right now is around $11,000,” Pugh told the committee members.

“The removal of these RRGs would put small-business truckers in a position to either have to leave Florida to obtain insurance or close their doors regardless if they’re insured by an RRG at this time or not.”

OOIDA Board Member Linda Allen joined Pugh in expressing opposition to the bill.

“I got up this morning and drove 200 miles to be here because I’m concerned. I’m concerned that the effects of Senate Bill 516 would affect my ability to run my company properly. I am concerned because I have been dealing with the same RRG for over 12 years, and I’ve been happy with my insurance coverage. They’ve met my claims, and they’ve dealt with me appropriately. Florida is a hard state to do business, trucking business, in with fuel so costly, and my insurance is higher than just about anywhere else in the country,” Allen told the committee members.

“I’m worried about this bill effectively limiting my options. I have been talking with the Small Business Women’s Business Council in Florida. I’m part of a group called Divas and Trucking, and I’ve talked to them about this bill as well. So it’s not just my doors that I’m worried about closing. I’m worried about all the other small truckers in the state of Florida that this could potentially affect.”

Bill sponsor pledges improvement

Bill sponsor Sen. Nick DiCeglie, a Republican, calls the bill a “work in progress.”

“As most of you know, here, I have a fleet of refuse trucks myself. So, you know, I just heard of this concern yesterday. This is absolutely a work in progress,” DiCeglie told committee members. “I really appreciate the question of the Q&A today. Always, you look forward to working with these folks to make sure you know that the small mom-and-pop, one- or two-truck operator is not negatively impacted by this. So all of your comments and concerns are duly noted, and I look forward to continuing this conversation, hopefully, as this bill moves forward.”

Both Pugh and Allen acknowledged that DiCeglie has been talking with them and others concerned.

“I do want to acknowledge that the senator has been working with us and listening to us, and hopefully that there may be some possible changes to the bill that might be able to be a way that we will continue to be able to work this out. Thank you so much for your time. And please vote no for Senate Bill 516,” Allen said.

“I’ve been down here since the first of the week. I have met with Sen. DiCeglie. He has heard our concerns … I don’t think he had any intent for this bill to put small-business truckers into this position. And his willingness to work with us going forward to amend this bill to where it’s fair for all parties is something that we look forward to,” Pugh said.

SB516 now moves to the Florida Senate Rules Committee for further deliberation.

A companion bill in the Florida House HB57 is headed for debate before the full House.

More Florida news is available.