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Should Truck Companies Be Required To Carry More Insurance?

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2012, 696 motorists nationwide were killed in accidents involving large trucks. 25,000 individuals were injured nationwide.

Currently, Federal Law requires that commercial freight operators carry at least $750,000 in public liability insurance. This covers the companies and operators for bodily injury, property damage, and environmental restoration, if required. However, the $750,000 amount is only a minimum liability requirement. Depending on the type of freight being carried, the amount can be as high as 5 million dollars. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, all freight carriers, in order to become licensed, must prove that they carry this insurance.

These amounts might seem significant, but when one considers the sheer revenue and profits these companies make every year, one begins to wonder whether this insurance is a reasonable amount to cover the potential for personal injury and environmental degradation this industry causes every year.

The trucking industry made $603 billion dollars in gross freight revenues in 2011, according to the Trucking Industry Mobility & Technology Corporation. Yet, if we compare these revenues to the amount of money BP Oil made last year, we find that the trucking industry is doing far better. BP Oil only made $300 billion in revenue. This means that the trucking industry generally makes about double that of a single oil company. Yet, despite this, it appears that trucking companies, despite being responsible for far more injuries to workers and to the general public, are required to carry far less insurance than oil companies.

The Deep Water Horizon tragedy in 2010, was the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. Eleven oil rig workers were killed in the accident and seventeen were treated for injuries. The Deep Water Horizon oil rig spilled oil into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days and spilled close to 4.9 million barrels. Wetlands and estuaries were affected, coral reef ecosystems were stressed and damaged, and the fishing industry took quite a hit. The oil rig explosion was a great tragedy, in terms of the human and environmental costs. The settlements for the accident have cost the company a reported 42.2 billion according to Forbes.

No one wants to underestimate the tragedy of the BP disaster, but let’s take a moment to put it into perspective and consider the human and environmental impact the truck industry makes each and every year. The United States Environmental Protection Agency reports that 28% of all U.S. greenhouse gases were the result of burning fossil fuels for transportation, namely, for fossil fuels for our cars and trucks. Commercial trucks make up about 12% of all registered vehicles, but when we take into account the greater gas requirements of these vehicles and consider the number of hours logged on the road by each truck, we can safely say that trucks make up a good percentage of the amount of greenhouse gas emissions released every year. These emissions not only make the planet warmer, endanger ecosystems long-term, but also affect human health. Trucks reduce air quality, which can lead to lung problems in humans. Greenhouse emissions are already costly now, and will be costly, going forward.

Oil companies are required to show that they have liability protection for up to $350 million per spill. The United States Environmental Protection Agency also has measures to ensure that oil companies are responsible for the damage they cause to waterways, ecosystems, and the risk they present to human health. Oil companies are required to prove that they have the insurance in the event these accidents occur. They are required to carry pollution liability and even forest fire liability.

The trucking industry not only endangers more lives on the road, and actively contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, but a U.S.A. Today report also suggested that overweight trucks could be damaging U.S. infrastructure. Overweight trucks can weaken the steel and concrete that make up bridges and roads, resulting in collapses like the one that took place in Minneapolis in 2007.

Colorado is one of the 9th oil-rich states in the U.S. with 423 million barrels in oil reserves. The oil industry does have accidents. Oil spills pollute lakes and rivers. Yet, truck accidents pose a greater and more immediate danger to the general population. With 26,000 people injured every year, it seems prudent that regulation be stricter. When dealing with an industry that makes over $600 billion each year, it seems that companies should be more responsible for their environmental and human impact.