New Jersey doubling liability insurance minimums

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Trucking news and briefs for Friday, May 10, 2024:

New Jersey ups minimum liability insurance levels

Legislation in New Jersey signed into law in January by Gov. Phil Murphy will double the liability insurance minimum for truck owners to $1.5 million. The extent of the increase’s applicability is unclear, however.

The bill, introduced in 2022, was passed by the state assembly and senate early in January and signed by Murphy shortly thereafter. It adds language to existing state liability insurance requirements to require for commercial motor vehicle owners to maintain "an amount or limit of $1,500,000, exclusive of interest and costs, on account of injury to or death of, one or more persons in any one accident or for damage to property in any one accident.”

The law states the requirement can "be satisfied by a commercial automobile insurance policy, fleet insurance policy, commercial umbrella insurance policy, commercial excess insurance policy, similar insurance policy, or any combination thereof."

The federal minimum for liability insurance for interstate motor carriers, of course, is $750,000, though that has been under fire in recent years as medical bills and other expenses have ballooned. A bill introduced in December in the U.S. House, after past similar legislative attempts, would increase the federal minimum from $750,000 to $5 million.

[Related: Liability insurance increase held back by lack of insurance data]

As for New Jersey’s new law, the increase will take effect on July 1 and will apply to all liability insurance policies initiated or renewed on or after that date. The language of the law is unclear as to whether it applies only to New Jersey-based carriers, or if it also applies to out-of-state carriers operating in the state. The text of the law reads that the liability minimums apply to "owners or registered owners" of vehicles “registered or principally garaged” in the state. The International Registration Plan brings out-of-state carriers into question, as the IRP includes New Jersey.

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Transportation law firm Scopelitis noted when the bill was signed into law in January that there was “no indication in the legislation that it is intended to apply only to intrastate New Jersey operations,” adding that “[t]here appears to be indirect evidence that the intent is that the new higher minimum limits under this legislation will apply to all commercial vehicles within its scope, whether in interstate or intrastate operations.”

In a March update, Scopelitis noted that it’s “unclear the extent to which it may apply to trucks in interstate operations with plates issued pursuant to the International Registration Plan. New Jersey has yet to offer clarification regarding the target of enforcement or how enforcement will occur.”

Scopelitis told CCJ Wednesday that the firm expects the New Jersey Department of Insurance to issue a bulletin to clarify how the new law will be enforced, but that has not yet been released.

[Related: Congress again floats massive increase to trucking insurance minimums]

NTP launches new warranty package covering electronic components, systems

National Truck Protection (NTP/Premium 2000) is rolling out a new extended warranty package that covers critical electronics and systems on commercial trucks.

NTP’s Electronix Package was introduced at a limited number of Class 8 dealerships as a warranty option in 2023. After strong interest from dealers and fleets buying trucks at those dealerships, NTP is now rolling the package out nationwide, as well as expanding it to include Class 2-7 light- and medium-duty vehicles.

The Electronix Package covers systems such as adaptive braking, anti-roll sensor, collision avoidance, navigation, power windows/locks, turn signals, wiper motor and more. The package can be added to any NTP or Premium 2000 warranty.

“Commercial truck OEMs include a growing list of high-tech electronics on all their new models that provide more efficient truck operation and driver assistance features common with the automotive industry,” said Geoff Stigler, Chief Commercial Officer at NTP. “As trucks age, we see an increasing failure rate of these electronics. So, our product development team created the industry’s most comprehensive electronics coverage plan available today.”

Trucking company owner indicted for tax evasion

The owner of an Ohio-based trucking company has been charged with seven counts accusing her of attempting to evade taxes.

A federal grand jury returned a seven-count indictment charging Alice F. Martin, 59, of Louisville, Ohio, accusing her of attempting to evade the assessment of income taxes from 2013 through 2018. Martin is also accused of attempting to evade the payment of previous taxes, penalties and interest from 2011 through 2013, all tied to Martin Logistics, a trucking company which she owned and operated.

According to the indictment, Martin allegedly set forth a plan to phase out Martin Logistics after it became burdened with tax debt in order to make herself, and Martin Logistics, uncollectable to the Internal Revenue Service.

Martin allegedly directed one of her employees to open a new company, TSA Transportation, which would serve as Martin’s nominee trucking business. Beginning January 2013, contracts for trucking services were primarily bid under TSA Transportation’s name, but the income TSA Transportation received was directly deposited into a bank account for another entity that Martin owned and controlled, A.F. Martin.

Additionally, Martin placed Martin Logistics’ assets, including trucks and trailers, into the name of yet another Martin-owned company, Martin Global.

From around 2013 to 2018, Martin allegedly directed approximately $18 million in gross receipts associated with TSA Transportation contracts to be deposited into the A.F. Martin banking account. Despite this, Martin regularly failed to file individual and corporate tax returns related to her trucking entities and failed to pay the taxes on her income. Martin also made several misrepresentations to the IRS related to the finances of Martin Logistics. After her fraudulent scheme was discovered, Martin caused several more misrepresentations to be made to the IRS related to the filing status of her income tax returns.

Martin allegedly received over $3.6 million in unreported taxable income resulting in her evading the IRS’s assessment of approximately $1.2 million in taxes due between 2013 and 2018.