Suppose you’ve been involved in a crash with a tractor-trailer, box truck, or another commercial motor vehicle (vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,001 or more pounds). In that case, you may assume that there will be more than enough insurance coverage for everyone who is injured.
Not so fast! Federal and state laws require commercial motor vehicles to maintain certain minimum insurance limits depending on many factors, but the limits probably aren’t as high as you think.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations govern motor carriers who haul in interstate commerce. The minimum insurance requirements for commercial motor vehicles hauling in interstate commerce are outlined in 49 C.F.R. §387.9. Motor carriers conducting “for-hire” non-hazardous property hauling are required to have at least $750,000 of liability insurance coverage.
When hazardous substances (as defined in 49 C.F.R. §171.8) or some categories of hazardous materials (as defined in 49 C.F.R. §173.403) are being transported by a CMV, “for-hire” and private motor carriers are required to have at least $5,000,000 in liability coverage. “For-hire” and private commercial motor vehicles hauling oil and gas and some other categories of hazardous materials are only required to have $1,000,000 of liability coverage.
In contrast to motor carriers hauling property, 49 C.F.R. §387.33 sets forth the minimum liability insurance requirements for carriers of passengers in interstate commerce. Vehicles with a seating capacity of 16 passengers or more (including the driver) are required to have at least $5,000,000 in liability coverage. However, vehicles with a seating capacity of 15 passengers or less (including the driver) are required to have only $1,500,000 in coverage.
Motor carriers who haul only in Georgia are considered “intrastate carriers,” and the minimum levels of liability insurance coverage are governed by Georgia Administrative Code Rule 515-16-11-.03. Georgia law only requires intrastate carriers of passengers to have liability coverage of at least $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident (the total available to satisfy all claims of all persons injured in an accident) when hauling 12 passengers or less. Georgia law requires intrastate carriers of more than 12 passengers to have only $100,000 per person and $500,000 per accident. Intrastate motor carriers in Georgia hauling property are required to have at least $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident in liability coverage.
What This Means
The federal insurance levels were set in 1980, so they have not changed in 41 years. Those limits are often totally inadequate given the severe injuries and death that routinely occur in dangerous trucking crashes. Georgia limits are even lower and far less adequate. On top of that, the rate of truck crashes and fatalities has more than doubled over the last ten years. Efforts are underway to raise the federal insurance minimums, which would better compensate crash victims and provide an economic incentive for companies to operate safely.