Trucking groups seek removal of liability insurance hike from House highway bill

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Updated Jun 30, 2021

Trucking news and briefs for Tuesday, June 29, 2021:

Coalition of trucking groups want insurance hike removed from House highway bill

As the U.S. House Committee on Rules meets Monday afternoon and Tuesday to discuss which amendments will be included in the bill sent to the full House floor later this week, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and a coalition of more than 60 trucking-related groups penned a letter to the House Rules Committee advocating for an amendment that would remove a liability insurance hike to $2 million for motor carriers.

The letter calls the 167% increase to carriers’ minimum liability insurance requirement “harmful and unnecessary.”

“If the House allows this policy to remain in the highway bill, it would jeopardize countless small and family-owned businesses, as well as blue collar jobs,” the coalition wrote. “We therefore ask that you make Rep. [Mike] Bost’s amendment in order and allow all Representatives to consider this issue on its own merits.”

The coalition adds that while supporters of the insurance hike say the change is needed to account for inflation since the $750,000 minimum was implemented, the existing level covers jury awards in more than 99% of cases, according to research from the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center.

“It may be true that inflation has increased some costs, but this congressionally-required research demonstrates that inflation has not outpaced the current minimum requirements,” the coalition said. “What studies haven’t shown is any improvement to safety associated with increasing insurance requirements. There is no reputable research indicating an increase of any amount would help reduce crash rates. Proposals to raise minimum liability coverage are nothing more than an opportunity for their most ardent supporters -- trial lawyers -- to receive higher payouts from settlements at the expense of American businesses.”

The letter also notes that the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee passed its version of the highway bill with bipartisan support, and it did not include any changes to insurance levels.

Spot volume holds steady as van segments offset flatbed

Data from Truckstop.com and FTR Transportation Intelligence for the week ending June 25 shows that overall spot load volume was basically flat, increasing just 0.1%. However, dry van and refrigerated posted solid gains while flatbed volume was lower.

In general, these developments follow seasonal expectations for late June, although flatbed’s volume decline from its mid-May record is slightly steeper than those in the five-year average for the segment. However, the move of the International Roadcheck event to early May clouds seasonal expectations somewhat.

Volume in both dry van and refrigerated is ahead of the week prior to Memorial Day while flatbed volume is about 11% lower. Lower flatbed volume could indicate a slowing of residential construction although it might also suggest an increase in capacity following months of strong rates and increased driver pay. Total spot rates were slightly higher, although a decline in flatbed rates mostly offset larger gains in dry van and refrigerated. Truck postings were down slightly, and the Market Demand Index edged up to 189.1.

Truckstop.com noted it's seen 109 consecutive business days of more than one million loads per day on the platform. The high point for last week was 1,371,000. Capacity remained constrained at 35.92 week-over-week (the 5-year average is 93.25). Rates increased 2 cents to $3.13 per mile – 43 weeks above $2.40. The five-year average is $2.26. 

Van rates jumped 7 cents to $2.77 Flatbed dropped one cent to $3.18 while reefer increased 10 cents to $3.20.

Load rejections are at about 25%, meaning that carriers are turning down about one-quarter of all loads.

Nominations sought for rookie military vet trucker award

Entries are open in an annual contest to identify and reward military veterans who are new to trucking.

Kenworth donated a fully loaded Kenworth T680 for the winner of the 2021 Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence award winner.Kenworth donated a fully loaded Kenworth T680 for the winner of the 2021 Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence award winner.Since 2016, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes, Kenworth, and Fastport have come together to provide one deserving veteran with a fully loaded T680 truck through the Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence award. The truck will feature a 76-inch sleeper, the Paccar MX-13 engine, Paccar TX-12 automated transmission, and Paccar DX-40 tandem rear axles.

Employers and credentialing institutions (CDL schools) can nominate up to five rookie drivers for the contest. The nomination deadline is 5 p.m. EDT on July 31.

To be eligible for the award, a nominee must:

  • Be a legal resident of the continental United States
  • Be a military veteran/prior service member or a current or former member of the National Guard or Reserves
  • Have graduated from a Professional Truck Driver Institute-certified or National Association of Publicly Funded Truck Driving Schools or Commercial Vehicle Training Association member driving training school
  • Be a current CDL holder
  • Have been first employed as a CDL driver between January 1, 2020, and July 31, 2021
  • Agree to all the award rules

The top 10 finalists will be announced in September. After a selection committee selects the top three Transition Trucking finalists, the public has the opportunity to vote for their favorite driver between Oct. 28 and Nov. 11. In December 2021, the winner will drive away in the Kenworth truck and start on the road toward an entrepreneurial career.