Florida enacts law aimed at combating nuclear verdicts

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Trucking news and briefs for Monday, March 27, 2023:

ATA lauds Florida for new law aimed at lawsuit abuse reform

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday signed a bill into law to reform the civil litigation system in the state.

Among other provisions, the new law increases transparency in civil proceedings by curtailing the ability of plaintiffs’ attorneys to introduce fictitious and inflated medical bills at trial.

According to the American Trucking Associations, phantom damages are one of numerous tactics “used by the plaintiffs’ bar to create a pervasive climate of lawsuit abuse that has sent insurance rates soaring to unsustainable levels.”

“We mean what we said about lawsuit abuse – enough is enough,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “When the plaintiffs’ bar perverts civil litigation into a profit center to line their pockets, the costs are borne by everyone – not just trucking companies, but consumers too in the form of higher insurance rates and higher prices for everyday goods.”

Florida follows a growing number of states who have enacted other and similar lawsuit abuse reforms, including Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Texas, and West Virginia, ATA said.

“It is a historic day in Florida,” said Alix Miller, President and CEO of Florida Trucking Association. “For decades, the trucking industry has been driven out of business because unscrupulous attorneys were allowed to take advantage of an unfair judicial system. With the signing of this legislation into law, Florida is taking a major step in shutting down billboard lawyers and strengthening our supply chain and economy.”

[Related: Two states looking to limit nuclear verdicts]

New York legislators propose increased speed limits

A New York legislator has introduced a bill that would increase the speed limit by 5 mph -- from 65 to 70 mph -- on portions of a number of major highways in the state. The bill, if approved and signed into law, would bring New York into line with most other states that have a speed limit of 70 mph.

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, a Democrat from a district west of Albany, introduced the legislation in response to changing transportation technology.

“My bill will bring New York in line with the vast majority of other states that already have speed limits of 70 miles per hour or higher,” said Santabarbara in a statement on his website. “The fact is technology has changed and more people are comfortable driving at a higher speed on the highway. We have better roads and modern engineering that has made today’s cars safer and easier to drive. This small change to our state’s speed limit would acknowledge those advancements and adjust to what most drivers comfortably drive at on major roadways across the country.” 

New York capped the maximum speed limit at 65 mph in 1995. 

Thomas F. O’Mara, a Republican from the state’s Southern Tier, introduced a companion bill in the state senate earlier this year.

Autonomous vehicle bill defeated in Kentucky

Legislation in Kentucky that would have legalized fully autonomous vehicles in the state has been defeated at the committee level, according to the Teamsters union.

The Teamsters said a “last-ditch effort” to get the language of the bill attached to other legislation on the Senate floor was also voted down.

The bill would have established a regulatory framework for fully autonomous vehicles that established various requirements for autonomous vehicles and automated driving systems.

The Teamsters were opposed to the legislation,

Schneider recognizes company’s safest drivers

Schneider National (CCJ Top 250, No. 9) is set to honor 250 drivers that have achieved career milestones, safely driving millions of miles without a preventable accident.

In a series of banquets across the U.S., the carrier will celebrate Million Mile Driver Awards and Consecutive Safe Driving Awards, each signaling the achievement of milestones in drivers’ careers.

The Million Mile Driver Award is earned by Schneider drivers who have transported freight over one, two or three million miles and remained accident free. In 2022, 95 drivers either joined the ranks or achieved a new milestone. In addition, 120 drivers earned the Consecutive Safe Driving Award for remaining accident-free for milestones ranging from 10 to 30 years.

Additionally, at a special event at its Green Bay, Wisconsin, headquarters, the carrier honored drivers inducted into the company’s Haul of Fame – a designation given to those who have three million safe driving miles and/or 20 consecutive years of safe driving. To permanently honor the recipients, plaques with their names are installed on the Haul of Fame wall at Schneider’s headquarters. This year, 35 drivers met the criteria for the first time or had their plaque updated to reflect a higher-level award.

“Schneider Haul of Fame drivers – and all of our award recipients – reflect our ongoing commitment to safety,” said Schneider President and CEO Mark Rourke. “Receiving these prestigious awards is no easy feat and we are proud to celebrate the outstanding successes of the drivers inducted this year. On behalf of Schneider’s 17,000 associates around North America, we celebrate and thank these award-winning drivers and their commitment to be the best in the business.”

As of January 2023, Schneider has nearly 900 active company drivers who have received Million Mile Driver or Consecutive Safe Driving Awards.