The minimal liability insurance for a tractor-trailer has not changed once since the industry was deregulated in 1980. Currently it is legal to operate a commercial truck with only $750,000 of insurance for each crash. This, of course, is woefully inadequate. If Congress or the Secretary of Transportation raised this amount to keep up with inflation, the minimum level of insurance would exceed $2,000,000; for medical cost inflation that amount would be over $4,000,000. Cleary, the amount should be increased to a sufficient level that can, at the very least, cover the medical expenses for just one crash victim, which can (and does) often cost significantly more than $750,000.
While the FMCSA is pushing to have the rates increased, they are receiving a strong push-back from independent truckers who do not want to be made to pay a higher premium. Yet, the original intent behind minimum insurance requirements was to erect a barrier to entry against unsafe and underinsured motor carriers from getting into this inherently dangerous industry, the only freight mode that occurs 100 % on public thoroughfares. Unfortunately, neglecting to update this amount has blunted the effectiveness of minimum insurance acting as a barrier, and now trucking companies can easily enter this industry by simply filling out a form requesting a Department of Transportation (DOT) number, which costs about $300, and easily obtaining an insurance policy for $750,000 of liability per crash. This requirement must be brought up to date AND indexed to something reasonable so that this travesty doesn’t repeat itself in the future.
Can you imagine if you could get into the airline business with this sort of minimal requirement? It is simply illogical to allow underinsured 80,000 pound vehicles on our roadways.