The Truth about Insurance Minimum Increases

One of the most overlooked issues by the public in freight transportation today is the minimum liability insurance requirements for trucks. The public is either unaware or misled about the ramifications of the current push to raise the minimum liability insurance requirements for trucks that purchase insurance. Roughly half of the trucks on the road today do not purchase insurance. These trucks are owned by large companies that are self insured. Please refer back to my recent post (click here) regarding the repeal of the self insurance provision. With this in mind, I plan to expose the intention and result of higher insurance minimums.

Congress member, Rep. Cartwright of Pennsylvania, whose family operates a law firm that has made its fortune by prosecuting trucking companies involved in accidents, introduced a bill to increase the minimum liability insurance requirements for trucking companies. That bill would increase the minimum liability amount required from $750,000 to upward of $4.4 million per truck. Why a congressman with so much to gain from a ruling like this is even able to introduce such a bill is beyond my belief! Law firms regularly receive amounts in excess of 30% to settle a case against a trucking company. You do the math on what that means to law firms. As if we were not litigious enough already.

The interesting part of this equation is that less than 1% of all accident cases against trucks currently exceed settlement for an amount greater than the minimum required amount of $750,000. Of the cases that exceed that amount, less than 1/10th of those cases would be covered by the higher limits of $4.4 million. You are talking about legislation that would benefit 1/10th of 1% (1 per thousand) of all accidents involving trucks. The lawyers, on the other hand, would reap windfall profits in settlements that would leave the victims as pawns of a scheme to exploit their misfortune for the gains of law firms.

Now that I have these numbers swirling around in your head, let me introduce you to more numbers! Most of the independent trucking companies today already carry $1 million in liability coverage. That means that most of the accidents that happen today are covered by insurance levels that are already pretty much the industry standard. The connection or dilemma that the public seems not to understand is that half of the trucks on the road will not be affected by this rule! They are self insured! This means that if you are the victim of an accident involving one of these carriers (who have the least experienced drivers), you have to negotiate with the offending party to get a settlement anyway! You will have to hire a lawyer to settle the case that has nothing to do with insurance minimums in the first place. An example of this is the much publicized Tracy Morgan accident. Wal Mart is self insured. Likewise, so is Fed Ex. Every major accident in the national news this year has been from a self insured company.

The ramifications of raising the standard minimum on the rest of the industry would be devastating. The average insurance premium today is $6-8,000 per year per truck. With the new limits, the premium amounts would surge to an estimated $20,000 per year per truck! That is an extra thousand dollars per month per truck that would have to be passed on to consumers. That would be enough to drive many of our nations safest drivers out of business. Small business truckers would have the choice of going out of business or going to work for large, self insured companies. That is the reason for the support of this increase by the self insured companies in the industry. It’s not about safety or your just reward! To learn more about this subject, click here for OOIDA’s website. You can also contact your representatives with just a few clicks from that site.

Ultimately, this measure would make the public less safe and force yet higher prices on you in the marketplace and put many small business truckers out of business all for the benefit of a few law firms that chase trucks like ambulances. The safest drivers on the road would be under even more pressure to go out of business. The measure is simply designed to extract greater profits for a few individuals and corporations by playing on the fears and ignorance of the public. Don’t let yourself get caught up in the hyperbole of the need for this increase. It will only cost you, the public, with no real benefit to your safety. It will only benefit the lawyers and the most unsafe carriers on the road. Help spread the word to all your voting friends and neighbors. Let’s stop this wreck before it happens! Contact your representatives regularly and take control of our special interest driven government! We have the power and must act before it is too late.

Truth about ELDs

The issue I want to address this week is the issue of EOBRs (Electronic On-Board Recorders) also known as ELDs (Electronic Logging Devices). There are a lot of differing opinions within the trucking industry about the ability of these units to improve safety. I will share with you my opinion and the reasons that I think the public should really care about this issue.

On the surface, you might say, “How could it be a bad thing to have a driver’s duty status automatically recorded?” The answer to this question is where you will find the devil in the details.

I provided a statement to the FMCSA during an open comment period on the subject. Click here to see that statement. Contained in that statement is real life examples of how automatic recorders falsify the true duty status of drivers. The real thing to remember regarding duty status is that the only thing an ELD can record accurately is where a truck is located at any specific time. Even that capability has been known to be incorrect in some circumstances. Every other duty status requires a driver’s input and can be manipulated depending on the operator’s use of the device.

First, let’s address the advocates’ argument. They say that the ELD insures absolute compliance and removes cheating. Safety is said to be improved through this compliance. A byproduct of this compliance is a level playing field for all players and removes profiteering from cheating and running illegal. That is a very compelling argument…… If it were true.

The truth is that both the ELD and paper logs depend on driver input to record “On Duty”, “Off Duty”, and “Sleeper Berth”. Neither is more accurate than the other. On duty time can be recorded as off duty in the same manner on both. One main thing that is different is that with paper logs, the driver fills out the duty status and signs it. No one else can change it. With ELDs, the logs can be altered or “corrected” by an employee of the trucking company. This log is certified by the driver and yet the duty status can be altered without the drivers knowledge. This ability to alter the logs at the company level could also be used to coerce a driver to confirm changes or face the misfortune of loss of revenue as retribution.

Next, they are touted as improving safety. This is accomplished by strict adherence to the Hours of Service (HOS) rules. Experienced drivers have repeatedly requested flexibility to be able to operate their trucks at the safest time rather than being forced to operate by a one size fits all approach. Because of the diversity of freight hauling, each type of operation requires some sort of special consideration. Already, FMCSA has given exceptions to the HOS for some operations such as livestock haulers. Another request is pending for household movers because of the problems that strict compliance causes. You can click here to see my statements to a house subcommittee in DC on the problems created by the latest HOS rules. Due to strict compliance, drivers are forced to drive longer without breaks to preserve on duty time. They are forced onto the roads during peak driving hours because of an unstoppable 14 hour on duty clock. The forced use of ELDs removes ALL flexibility from a driver’s control. If you get stuck in traffic you could record a violation that is totally beyond anyone’s control.

On another note, companies and some drivers like ELDs because they create a violation free record. A driver doesn’t have to learn how to record a proper log and monitor all the math in calculating a compliant log. This reduces driver training and driver responsibility for log book violations. Log book violations are one of the most frequent violations received by drivers. In a company filled with low skill level drivers, the ELD hides the lack of training thereby artificially enhancing a carriers’ safety rating. In addition, when the ELD fails, a paper log is required as a backup. In roadside inspections, a weigh master can also require a paper printout for inspection.

Lastly, with the paper log, you are required to present your record of duty status for inspection at any time to proper law enforcement. There is no requirement to leave a copy of your logs there. With the ELD, when files are electronically transferred, a copy of your information is retained by law enforcement. You lose control of that information. It can be used in any manner by any government official that has access to the information without court order but simply by asking for it.

ELDs also cause a loss of production or efficiency thereby causing the price of moving freight to increase. Some would argue that it increases efficiency but I ask you, do you think the lack of flexibility increases or decreases efficiency? Another piece of technology is not what makes us safer. Properly trained and experienced drivers with the flexibility to decide what is safe within a set of guidelines is what makes us safer. ELDs don’t stop violations, they standardize them and make us all less safe in the process. I hope that you will share this information with everyone to stop runaway government before it is too late.

Why the Public Should Care More About Trucking

As truckers, we often times feel isolated from the rest of the world and yet we are what makes it possible for the rest of the world to function. Because of this detachment, the general public only learns about what we really do from the “trucker friendly” media. That is the reason we need to have a greater influence to spread the truth to as many people as we can. In short, Why the Public Should Care More About Trucking.

I plan to start a short series on these issues. I plan to explain why the public should care. These issues may become talking points that you can use to inform your representatives or your neighbors and friends. My selection of the subjects are not based on importance; simply what strikes me as important this week. That said, each of these issues need to be brought to a greater awareness to the public and our representatives. Let our voices be heard!

The first issue that I think needs a huge spotlight is the issue of self insurance. First, here is why truckers should care. Self insurance allows the large (mega) companies to employ the lowest experience drivers and NOT pay any more than is absolutely necessary to get these drivers in the seat. Because they cost relatively nothing extra to insure (because the companies are self insured) and can be hired cheap, you as experienced drivers are only worth what you can be replaced for. If they had to insure these drivers based on the risk exposure, you (the experienced driver) would be worth far more because you could be insured much more easily and less expensively. Driver pay and driver turnover would be FAR less of a problem if we had a system that valued a driver based on his record and experience. Companies would want to hold onto their more experienced drivers to enhance their overall experience statistics to get lower rates. Insurance companies would evaluate each driver based on their risk exposure.

Large companies say they want to level the playing field. This is double speak. Meaning, they (self insured companies) want to twist another regulation in favor of the company and against a driver that may be trying to operate a competitive business and survive without the abuse of the large companies. They don’t want to compete in a fair market. They want to play in a market that is slanted in their favor. They would like nothing more than to have experienced drivers fail at their own business so those drivers would have to come to work for the company to survive. How many times have you heard, “I had my own authority once but couldn’t make it.”?

There is a myth I’ve heard many times promoted by these companies that says that independents are undercutting the rates and making it harder. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Independents only make up about 10% of the trucks on the road but about half of the operating authorities issued. We are forced to compete with companies that have drastically lower insurance, equipment and driver cost. Really,… Who do you think can run cheaper? We run safer and more efficiently. They run less expensively.

I’ve written a position paper on the subject that you can find here under My Pages. It is a much more complete argument on the subject of repeal of the self insurance provision.

In short, the self insurance provision:

  • Makes our public less safe
  • Devalues experience
  • Artificially lowers freight rates through the exploitation of cheap labor
  • Increases driver turnover
  • Holds no minimum training standards
  • Delays settlements in most cases
  • Forces a victim to negotiate directly with the offending party for settlement
  • Reduced settlement offers
  • Allows for the arrogant stand of the self insured to simply say “sue me” to get settlement

I currently have a claim with a well known company from Montana that occurred on February 28, 2014 that is as of today (September 10, 2014) yet unsettled. They backed into my truck while I was in the sleeper. How hard is it to determine responsibility? I am learning from others that my experiences are not unusual.

I hope many of you will join me in educating the public and fellow drivers alike in this gross overreach of privilege and reduction of safety. Also, please join me in contacting your representatives to repeal the self insurance privilege in the upcoming transportation bill. You can call the Whitehouse Switchboard at (202)-224-3121 or contact all three at the same time by going to . We have a voice. We must use it where it counts!

Inactive to Proactive

The basic premise is that humans are creatures of habit. That said, we as truckers depend on our good habits that have been developed to keep us safe and able to earn a good living. Those habits are what I want to focus on. Yes, the pretrip inspection, regularly checking mirrors, keeping current and correct logs, checking our load, etc. are all parts of our everyday routine or habit. The habits that I want us to examine are the ones that define us personally. How many of us have complained about some aspect of the industry? These are the habits that I want to focus on.

If we complain about things that are not right, this too can become part of our habits. More often then not we only complain to each other (which has no effect in changing the wrong. Another bad habit.). We are participants in an industry but we are inactive in deciding its direction. It is my opinion that we should complain to someone that can help change things. Otherwise, we should just settle for the status quo and stop complaining. Most drivers have an opinion about almost every aspect of our business. The problem is that we do very little to actually make it different. That is what I want to help with. Moving from Inactive to Proactive.

As I said earlier, we are creatures of habit. We have to change our habits to really make things better. I suggest that you start with small changes. Each week, or even each month, choose something that you want to change. It does’t have to be related to trucking. It could be something personal. Self discipline goes hand in hand with becoming proactive. Make that one small change and stick with it. Keep doing that every day. Soon, you won’t even think about it any more because it became a habit. Now you are ready to choose another aspect to change. Repeat this process over and over. In a short amount of time, you will start to notice that you are becoming more of the person that you want to be and less of the person you were.

A habit is developed by doing the same thing over and over. Most of the time we develop these habits unconsciously. To move from inactive to proactive you have to think about the things you want to change and start doing them regularly. It does require a measure of self discipline to accomplish your goals. You have to stick with the change until it becomes habit.

Smoking, or quitting smoking was one of the hardest things for me personally to change. I could find no redeeming quality to smoking. I knew it was bad for me. Knowing in my mind that it was not the thing that I needed to be doing yet was the thing that my mind kept telling me to do was quite the conundrum. I had many personal arguments with myself on the matter. Finally, I had to support what I knew to be the right thing to do. I stopped smoking. I probably will forever be a smoker, I simply choose not to do it. I miss it sometimes but I am proud that I changed something in my life for the better and I don’t choose to go back.

Improvements in your life are accomplished the same way. Choose the things you don’t really like about yourself and start a plan to be who you want to be. One day at a time! Fight the battles of today, not the battles of a lifetime. You will find that practicing these simple measures (with self discipline), in a short you will start noticing the change in yourself. You will start to move yourself from inactive to proactive! Best of luck to you! Give it a whirl! Pick one thing and start your own self improvement process.