H. R. 3781 if passed will increase fire suppression contractor costs

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Large commercial vehicles supporting wildfire suppression could see a significant increase in insurance premiums

fire camp incident base catering contractor

(Above: Firefighters line up at the catering contractor’s truck for breakfast at the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs, Colorado July 1, 2012. USFS photo by Kari Greer.)

By Bob Stanton

If H.R. 3781 passes, it will increase the required minimum insurance coverage required for commercial motor vehicles (CMV) over 26,001 lbs GVWR from the current $750,000 to nearly $5 million. The bill titled Improving National Safety by Updating the Required Amount Insurance Needed per Event ( INSURANCE) Act of 2019, would apply to CMVs used in interstate commerce and index the new $5 million minimum requirement to inflation.

The bill was introduced and is sponsored by representatives with close ties to the Trucking Litigation Group within the American Association for Justice, a trial lawyers lobbying group. The bill is viewed as only benefiting trial lawyers. From a 2013 Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration study of financial responsibility requirements for commercial motor vehicles, less than 1% of CMV accidents settle for more than the current $750,000 requirement.

Currently liability coverage for larger commercial vehicles is at times hard to place and costs have been rising, in part due to “nuclear” multimillion dollar verdicts against trucking companies in tragic accidents. Exact estimates of how much premiums for CMV insurance would rise if the $5 million minimum coverage limit is imposed vary; 300-400 % premium increases is not an unrealistic estimate.

Many contract suppression resources operate CMVs that would be subject to this new costly insurance requirement. Many engines, water tenders, dozer low boys, mobile shower, catering, aviation fueling, mobile retardant bases, and air resource support vehicles are CMVs subject to FMCSA requirements.

Both direct suppression resources and support-contracted resources are an integral part of cost effective wildland and prescribed fire management programs by many agencies.

If you have concerns, contact the office of your member of Congress.

Bob Stanton is a retired prescribed fire and engine contractor from Illinois who now works in the trucking industry.

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5 thoughts on “H. R. 3781 if passed will increase fire suppression contractor costs”

  1. Just as an fyi for comparison, here are the current FMCSA insurance requirements for freight and passenger carriers (i.e. crew carrier buses):
    “Freight:–$750,000 – $5,000,000, depending on commodities transported; $300,000 for non-hazardous freight moved only in vehicles weighing under 10,001 lbs.
    Passengers:–$5,000,000; $1,500,000 for registrants operating only vehicles with seating capacity of 15 or fewer passengers.”

  2. What many people don’t realize is that ALL commercial motor vehicles will see this increase. Every single thing each one of us has in our homes, uses every day and eats every day comes to us by commercial motor vehicles. I challenge anyone to correctly list one thing they purchase that isn’t at some point in the journey carried on a commercial motor vehicle. I’ve never seen railroad tracks that connect to a grocery store, shopping mall or gas station. A jump of this magnitude in rates will drive up the cost of every purchased item. The trial lawyers get the lions share of all verdicts issued in court cases and they get theirs before anyone else.

    In addition, it’s well documented that over 80% of accidents involving commercial motor vehicles are the fault of the car or pickup (4-wheelers) involved in those accidents, not the commercial motor vehicle. Maybe the trial lawyers lobbying group should go after private auto insurance rates? That would not set well with the motoring public but if they are the ones causing over 80% of the accidents then they should be the ones paying. There are also many documented cases of 4-wheelers intentionally causing these accidents to get a big settlement in court. Certainly not the 80% that are at fault but any one intentionally causing an accident should pay the price, not the innocent.

    The general motoring public does not understand the physics and dynamics of large vehicles and they are in too much of a hurry to understand. They do not operate in a safe manner around large vehicles and I see this every single day. Rarely will you see a commercial motor vehicle behaving in the manner that many autos behave on our highways. Commercial motor vehicles are the most inspected and regulated vehicles on the highways with the largest fines to be levied against them for illegal or unsafe behavior. If autos were inspected and regulated to this degree I think we would see a drastic change in driving behavior on our highways. This legislation is a wolf in sheep clothing. It’s supposed to protect the motoring public at the cost of the commercial motor vehicle companies but in reality will do nothing to protect the motoring public at the full cost to every citizen.

  3. If ” …multimillion dollar verdicts against trucking companies in tragic accidents…” compensates victims injured as a result of corporate trucking company negligence that is just. Maybe these corporations will improve safety as a result of punitive settlements. Big tobacco had the same problem.

  4. This Bill would impact not only contractors associated with Wildfire but all Commercial Truck Carriers. Lobbied by Trial Lawyers Association and sponsored by willing Politicians who do their bidding. 0 -Republicans, 6 – Democrat’s not surprisingly from States already having some of the highest vehicle insurance premium costs. Cartwright – PA, Espaillat & Meng – NY, Payne – NJ, Soto – FL, Cohen – TN. The justification is outrageous; Premium minimums raised from $750K to $5M based solely on Health care inflation since 1980 despite the fact that the aggregate number of truck crashes and fatalities have halved while at the same time the number of registered trucks and avg mile driven per truck has doubled over this same period. Ref: US Bureau of L&S, NHTSA, Congress.gov.

  5. Wouldn’t this help trucking companies avoid lawsuits by having insurance that better covers the magnitude of damage and death an accident can cause? I don’t know, but $750k doesn’t seem like enough. Especially if an accident involves multiple vehicles like some of the ones that happened just last winter.


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