Monthly Archives: April 2014

FMCSA Releases Report on Minimum Insurance: April 2014

We are glad to see that the FMCSA has recently released a report from their study of the need to increase minimum liability insurance for truck drivers. We hope that the rulemaking process will proceed in a timely fashion.

Here are some details from the FMCSA’s April 2014 Report:

“On July 6, 2012, President Obama signed into law the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21stCentury Act (MAP-21;P.L. 112-141). Section32104of MAP-21directed the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to issue a report to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the House of Representatives on the appropriateness of the current minimum financial responsibility requirements for motor carriers of property and passengers, and the current bond and insurance requirements for freight forwarders and brokers.

Section 32104 also directed the Secretary to issue a report on the appropriateness of these requirements every 4 years starting April 1, 2013. The Secretary delegated the responsibility for this report to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

The legislative history of minimum insurance requirements for commercial motor vehicles (CMV) indicates that Congress recognized that crash costs would change over time and that DOT would periodically examine the levels and make adjustments as necessary. A variety of recent studies indicate that inflation has greatly increased medical claims costs and related expenses.

In conclusion, FMCSA has determined that the current financial responsibility minimums are due for re-evaluation. The Agency has formed a rulemaking team to further evaluate the appropriate level of financial responsibility for the motor carrier industry and has placed this rulemaking among the Agency’s high priority rules. The FMCSA will continue to meet with the stakeholders, including impacted industries, safety advocacy groups, and private citizens, as it moves forward with developing a proposed rule.”

Here is some information on how OOIDA, the Owner Operators Independent Driver Association, has publicly responded to the DOT/FMCSA’s report on minimum insurance.

“(April 17, 2014) – The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association responded to a report by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration indicating the agency’s intention to significantly raise insurance requirements for interstate motor carriers.

FMCSA acknowledges that more than 99 percent of commercial vehicle accidents are readily covered under current requirements and that they have not done an assessment of the financial impact that increased requirements would have on small businesses.

‘Even though the agency’s report confirms that fewer than one percent of all truck-involved accidents result in injuries or property damage that exceed current insurance requirements, it seems pretty clear they plan to raise those requirements anyway,’ said Todd Spencer, executive vice president.

OOIDA contends that an increase in insurance would be a death nail for the small businesses that comprise over 90 percent of the trucking industry.

‘The amount of insurance carried by motor carriers has never been shown to have a correlation with safety,’ continued Spencer. ‘The agency seems to be bowing to the economic objectives of the personal injury attorneys and mega-trucking companies who have been campaigning for higher insurance requirements. Trial lawyers will see windfall payouts in the increases, and big trucking companies – who already use special exceptions in the law to avoid buying insurance on the open market – see an opportunity to drive up business costs and do away with their small-business competitors.’

Under current insurance requirements, truckers already often find themselves pushed into court by attorneys after accidents that were not their fault due to the possibility of high dollar settlements.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is the largest national trade association representing the interests of small-business trucking professionals and professional truck drivers. The Association currently has more than 150,000 members nationwide.”

“The Owner-Operator and Independent Drivers Association and the American Trucking Associations both disagree with the findings of the study, however, and both say that just 1 or 2 percent of crashes involving trucks actually see a claim above $750,000.

OOIDA’s Todd Spencer in June called the study ‘bogus,’ adding that ‘All the Alliance will succeed in doing is increase costs for their competition in trucking and chum the water for personal injury lawyers.’

ATA spokesman Sean McNally echoes Spencer, saying that just 1 percent of settlements exceed the minimum. The Alliance, he says, recommends the limit increase ‘in satisfaction of some unstated goal.’

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ‘consistently found over the same time period examined by the Trucking Alliance that the average cost of a crash involving a large truck is less than a third of the minimum limit required today,’ McNally added.”

One of our family members has responded to these statements in this way:

“The 1% issue is at best a red herring. Refusing to raise a limit because such a small percentage reach the limit only indicates that the increase in cost should be minimal. It can’t be both ways, either this increase should raise the cost of doing business or the effect should be minimal.

This isn’t life insurance where all the money is always paid out. Nor is this homeowner’s insurance in which you have a set amount of house that can be destroyed. This is liability insurance in which the amount paid out is based on the amount of damage being done. If such a small percentage of claims reaches the limit then greedy lawyers, increased costs, and mythical ‘windfall’ payments are all proven absurd or irrelevant.

What we actually have here is discrimination against the minority. ‘You are so small a portion of the people we harm we are not obliged to deal with you fairly.’ Under such logic they might as well suggest that because less than 1 percent of the time on the road involves accidents they shouldn’t be compelled to have insurance at all.”

Working Together With the Truck Industry To Make Roads Safer

I was reading comments made by people who have recently signed our truck safety petition. One of them mentioned having lost her dad due to a truck-related crash.

So I decided to look the crash up online and found an article about the contact which her family had had with the trucking company involved. In fact, that company has taken seriously the opportunity to improve their efforts to prevent accidents involving their trucks.

You can read about it here: .

The Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association Reaction to IIHS Report: What is the Truth?


Manac vs competitor crash test photos 001

(Courtesy IIHS Crash Test Photos)

The other day, I found an article which quoted the TTMA’s reaction to the IIHS Report on underride guards. It said that, “NHTSA’s past studies have shown that serious injuries and deaths can occur in rear crashes due to the sudden forces of deceleration that are imposed on the occupants even without underride.” (from May 2012 and quoted here). They used this to question whether underride guards should be made more rigid.

Russ Rader, IIHS Senior Vice President of Communications, pointed out to me that, “The central argument that they make isn’t supported by the Institute’s analysis of real-world crashes or the results of our trailer crash tests.”

Rader then mentioned that, “Twenty years ago with a less crash-worthy passenger vehicle fleet, the concern about unintended consequences may have had merit. But modern vehicles are engineered to handle crashes into stiff objects. For example, the Chevrolet Malibu that IIHS used in its trailer crash tests is a vehicle that earns top ratings in consumer front crash tests conducted by IIHS and NHTSA.  But in an underride crash, the benefits of that design don’t come into play. The energy-absorbing structures in the front-end of the Malibu aren’t able to do their job if the underride guard gives way. Our tests showed that a belted driver could walk away from a 35 mph crash into the back of a trailer with a strong underride guard. “

For more details, see the sidebar on page 3 of this 2011 IIHS Report,

I also previously read TTMA statements quoted in an article by a reporter who interviewed me in the Fall of 2013 ( ):

Jeff Sims, the president of the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association (TTMA), was making an argument about underride guards:

“Sims argued that more rigid guards could lead to more deaths and more significant injuries. ‘A neck strain could become a neck fracture as a result,’ said Sims.”

When I read that, I thought, “Is that true? What is he basing that statement on?”

I have also been concerned about statements made by the American Trucking Association (ATA), which have been included in media interviews which I have participated in since our accident, e.g.,, as well as two web stories on the subject, and

I understand that we all need to look at every facet of the issues we are discussing and attempting to understand and resolve. However, I think it is important that statements which are made about vital issues are accurate and do not misrepresent the available data and facts–or distract from needed changes.

In the case of underride guards, the claims of the ATA and TTMA do not provide citations backing up their statements. If what they have stated is in any way questionable, and yet is allowed to stand as the truth, it could have far-reaching impact.

To tell you the truth, every time I read the TTMA’s statement, I am reminded of what happened to us and I think, “What are they basing their statement on? Conjecture? And then I think about our crash: AnnaLeah and Mary went under the truck and did not survive. Caleb and I did not go under; we also experienced deceleration but did not die as a result.”


Past Time for Action


It has recently come to our attention that our petition to the Department of Transportation regarding underride guards will not have been the first one to address this vital issue.

On February 28, 2011, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)* sent a letter to David Strickland, the then-Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), titled “Petition for Rulemaking; 49 CFR Part 571 Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Rear Impact Guards; Rear Impact Protection.” (, #3 in 2011)

The IIHS letter concludes as follows, “In summary, IIHS provides analyses and test results showing that NHTSA could greatly reduce the likelihood of rear truck underride by reopening rulemaking on FMVSS 223 and 224 to:

1. Substantially increase the quasi-static force requirements, at least to levels that would guarantee all guards are as strong as the Wabash;

2. Move the P1 test location farther outboard to improve offset crash protection;

3. Require that attachment hardware remains intact throughout the tests;

4. Require guards be certified while attached to the trailers for which they are designed;

5. Investigate whether the maximum guard ground clearance can be reduced; and

6. Reduce the number of exempt truck and trailer types.

“IIHS urges NHTSA to begin such rulemaking as soon as possible to reduce the preventable injuries and deaths occurring when passenger vehicles strike the rears of large trucks at speeds the passenger vehicles are clearly designed to handle in the absence of underride.”

On April 3, 2014, the National Safety Transportation Board (NSTB) released a document which made Seven Safety Recommendations for Tractor-Trailers to NHTSA—including improvement of standards for rear underride guards. The document made mention of the 2011 petition from IIHS to NHTSA and commented that, “As of December 2013, NHTSA has not formally responded to IIHS’s petition, but the agency has sponsored additional research on rear underride.”

It is clearly past time for action to be taken on this important issue. How many more lives will be unnecessarily lost before those accountable for instigating change will act decisively and make it happen?

* Note: The IIHS is a reputable organization ( ):

“The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is an independent, nonprofit scientific and educational organization dedicated to reducing the losses — deaths, injuries and property damage — from crashes on the nation’s roads.

The Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) shares and supports this mission through scientific studies of insurance data representing the human and economic losses resulting from the ownership and operation of different types of vehicles and by publishing insurance loss results by vehicle make and model.

Both organizations are wholly supported by auto insurers and insurance associations.”


Underride Guards: What Should We Do If There Really Is a Better Design?

The Department of Transportation has regulations for underride guards on trailers. You know what I mean, that thing we have been talking about: the guard on the back of trailers which is supposed to keep a vehicle from sliding under the truck in the event of a crash.

But, too often, these guards don’t do what they are supposed to do. What if there was a better design/better standards than what is currently required? What should we do about it?

Study these photos for yourself. The top trailer has a different design and, in a crash test, the results were significantly different.

PManac vs competitor crash test photos 001

Photos from IIHS Report:



May 4, 2013, Karth Crown Victoria rode under the trailer

NSTB Issues 7 Safety Recommendations for Tractor-Trailers

We are encouraged by the news that the National Safety Transportation Board, on April 3, 2014, released seven recommendations urging the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (part of DOT) to improve the safety of tractor-trailers. We hope that, together with the message that we deliver with our petition on May 5, Secretary Foxx and his administration will take this seriously and make significant changes in a timely fashion.

We do not want to see DOT/NHTSA drag their feet doing more studies when research has already been done. See , starting at page 8 re: rear underride guards and especially on page 11:

“As a result of the research that was published in 2010 and 2011, IIHS submitted a petition to NHTSA requesting that the 1998 rear underride guard standard be upgraded.55 The following changes were requested:

(1) Increase the strength of the guards by modifying testing requirements,

(2) Require that the guards be designed to protect passenger vehicle occupants in collisions that occur with only a portion of the guard (off-set collisions),

(3) Strengthen requirements for attachment hardware,

(4) Require testing each type of guard “while attached to the trailers for which they are designed,”

(5) Determine whether it is feasible to lower the maximum guard ground clearance from 22 inches, and

(6) Include additional types of trucks (i.e., single-unit trucks) and trailers in a revised rear underride guard rule.56

As of December 2013, NHTSA has not formally responded to IIHS’s petition, but the agency has sponsored additional research on rear underride.57”

See the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) 2011 and 2013 Status Reports on underride guards here:


Our Crown Vic–ready to be towed on May 4, 2013, after an underride crash