Rise in ‘nuclear verdicts’ in lawsuits threatens trucking industry

From CNBC.

This year should be smooth sailing for Mike Card, president of Combined Transport. The trucking company his dad started in 1980 is busier than ever — trying to meet the nation’s ravenous demand for delivered goods amid a pandemic.

But with some 500 trucks on the road across the nation, Card is constantly thinking about highway safety because just one bad crash could put his company on the brink of bankruptcy.

“If someone wins $20 million from the jury, my insurance companies only pay the first $5 [million]. I would have to pay the next $15 million. We couldn’t afford that. We’d have to shut our doors.” Card said. It’s not a unique worry.

According to data analyzed by the National Safety Council, just over 5,000 large trucks were involved in fatal crashes in 2019, a 43% increase from 2010. The number of injuries associated with truck crashes rose 7% that year to 160,000, with the majority being occupants of other vehicles.

Jury awards for crashes are also skyrocketing. When considering verdicts of more than $1 million, the average size increased nearly 1,000% from 2010 to 2018, rising from $2.3 million to $22.3 million, according to a study last summer by the American Transportation Research Institute.

US Xpress has about 7,000 trucks. CEO Eric Fuller told CNBC that for comparable accidents, verdict sizes have increased as much as 10 times over the last three or four years.

“When you get into jury trials, there’s very much a feeling of somebody has to pay for this. And it’s often it’s the big pockets,” Fuller said.

The insurance industry calls them “nuclear verdicts” — jury awards that surpass $10 million. Liberty Mutual Insurance blames corporate mistrust, litigation financing and social pessimism, a sense that the system is broken, for excessive jury awards.

In lawsuits that went in favor of the plaintiffs, hours-of-service violations, lack of clean driving history and fatigue were commonly cited factors.

See the complete article online at CNBC.

Route 8/I-84 Mixmaster construction warning

From Connecticut DOT.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation would like to remind large trucks of the low clearance bridge located on Bank Street in Waterbury. This bridge is a part of a detour related to the rehabilitation work for the Mixmaster project. Please be aware of the posted warning signs prior to this bridge and follow the appropriate detour.

See more info on the closure/detour online.

Testify in opposition to the Truck Mileage Tax

The Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, March 24, 2021 at 10 a.m. via Zoom. One of the agenda items will be Governor Lamont’s truck mileage tax, formally known as HB 6443, An Act Concerning Revenue Items to Implement the Governor’s Budget. Several MTAC members have already determined that this tax will cost them an exorbitant amount of money, in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.

Written testimony can be submitted to the legislature’s Finance Committee by emailing a PDF attachment to fintestimony@cga.ct.gov. Put “Oppose HB 6443 Truck Mileage Tax” in the subject line if you choose to submit testimony.

Additionally, members can sign up to testify over Zoom by using the Online Testimony Registration Form. The registration form must contain the name of the person who will be testifying. A unique email address must be provided for each person registered to speak. Registration will close on Tuesday, March 23, 2021 at 3 p.m.

Speaker order of approved registrants will be listed in a randomized order and posted on the Finance, Revenue and Bonding committee website on Wednesday, March 24, 2021 at 9 a.m. under Public Hearing Testimony.

Contact MTAC’s Joe Sculley if you have any questions.

HB 5420 testimony: Driver responsibility at non-working traffic signals

MTAC President Joe Sculley submitted testimony in response to a bill which would “require a motor vehicle operator, when approaching an intersection with an inoperative traffic control signal, to stop as though such intersection was controlled by a stop sign.”

In the testimony Sculley told lawmakers that MTAC supports the bill and said “I am surprised this is not already current law. This responsibility is something that I am personally aware of, and I know that commercial truck drivers are aware of it as well. But in the aftermath of tropical storm Isaias, it is clear that many passenger car drivers are not. I personally witnessed cars blow through major intersections with inoperative traffic signals without stopping. If drivers in every car, coming from four different directions as they approach an inoperative traffic signal, took that same approach, the result would be an ugly crash.”

Sculley went on to explain “We support this bill because this responsibility should be clearly articulated in law, and we also hope that as the bill proceeds, it generates a lot of discussion that the public will follow and get educated in the process.”

The complete letter is available as a PDF and provided below.

Re: HB 5420 An act concerning driver responsibility at inoperative traffic control signals

MTAC Supports

Chairman Lemar, Chairman Cassano, Ranking Member Somers, Ranking Member Carney, and members of the Transportation Committee, thank you for the opportunity to submit this testimony. My name is Joe Sculley, I am the president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut (MTAC), which is a statewide trade association representing more than 500 businesses, most of which are small business trucking companies.

MTAC supports this bill, which would “require a motor vehicle operator, when approaching an intersection with an inoperative traffic control signal, to stop as though such intersection was controlled by a stop sign.” Candidly, I am surprised this is not already current law. This responsibility is something that I am personally aware of, and I know that commercial truck drivers are aware of it as well. But in the aftermath of tropical storm Isaias, it is clear that many passenger car drivers are not. I personally witnessed cars blow through major intersections with inoperative traffic signals without stopping. If drivers in every car, coming from four different directions as they approach an inoperative traffic signal, took that same approach, the result would be an ugly crash.

Another example of a time when we can be prone to inoperative traffic control signals is following a winter storm, such as an ice storm that knocks out power. Imagine a fuel truck encounters an inoperative traffic signal on the way to a deliver to a customer’s home. They stop at the inoperative signal, and then begin to proceed, only to be hit by a passenger car who did not stop. A disastrous crash will ensue.

We support this bill because this responsibility should be clearly articulated in law, and we also hope that as the bill proceeds, it generates a lot of discussion that the public will follow, and get educated in the process.

About the Connecticut Trucking Industry

  • 85.8%: number of Connecticut communities that depend exclusively on trucks to move their goods
  • 98%: percent of manufactured tonnage transported by truck in Connecticut
  • $3.4 billion: total trucking industry wages paid in Connecticut (2018)
  • 61,590: trucking industry jobs in Connecticut (2018)
  • $55,777: average annual salary in Connecticut (2018)
  • $9,026: average annual CT-imposed highway user fees paid by tractor trailers (as of 1/1/2020)
  • $8,906: average annual fed-imposed highway user fees paid by tractor trailers (as of 1/1/2020)

ATRI puts $20B price tag on vehicle-miles-traveled tax

From FreightWaves.

New research released Wednesday from the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) found that replacing the federal fuel tax with a vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT) tax could result in collection costs of more than $20 billion annually.

The main reason for that price tag – which is 300 times higher than the current cost to collect fuel taxes – is a “shift in collection points” from a limited number of fuel terminal operators to 272 million registered motor vehicles in the U.S.

The report comes as Congress begins to negotiate the next infrastructure bill and figure out how to keep the federal highway trust fund (HTF), which pays for the country’s roads and bridges, from going bankrupt. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the HTF will be exhausted by 2022.

“With policymakers preparing to lay out a vision for the future of America’s infrastructure, ATRI’s analysis could not come at a more critical time,” said American Trucking Associations (ATA) President and CEO Chris Spear. “Most experts agree that some sort of VMT system is a part of that future, and ATRI’s report makes clear that implementing it will take thoughtful leadership, cooperation from stakeholders and a strong plan to transition away from current funding streams.”

While a VMT tax system would likely be applied to all vehicles, ATRI noted that it conducted its research in response to a proposal last year supported by several U.S. senators for VMT applied exclusively to trucks. It called for electronic logging devices to track truckers’ movements and report them back to the Internal Revenue Service. The proposal is strongly opposed by ATA but is getting a fresh look from the Senate Finance Committee, according to Politico.

See the complete article online at the FreightWaves website.

Senators introduce trucking workforce legislation

From Transport Topics.

Legislation aimed at training drivers younger than 21 to drive trucks across state lines was recently unveiled by a group of senators.

Led by Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy, or DRIVE-Safe, Act aims to enhance safety training, as well as employment opportunities for truckers.

Specifically, the bill would establish an apprenticeship program to allow commercial driver license holders under 21 years old to operate commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce.

“Today, 18-year-olds can drive more than 200 miles from New Albany to Gary and back, but they aren’t allowed to drive two miles from New Albany to Louisville,” Young said March 10, referencing towns in and around his state. He is a member of the Commerce Committee, which oversees trucking policy. “The DRIVE-Safe Act will eliminate this ridiculous regulation and in doing so address the driver shortage while providing new career opportunities for young Hoosiers.”

There currently is a federal ban on interstate travel for truck drivers under 21.

“Now more than ever, young Montanans need more opportunities to get comprehensive job training, access higher paying work, and grow their careers early on,” added Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), a co-sponsor. “This bipartisan bill will do just that, allowing younger truck drivers to get top-of-the-line apprenticeships that kick their careers into gear, all while providing a big boost to the thousands of communities across the Big Sky who rely almost exclusively on trucks to move goods in and out of the state.”

See the complete article online at Transport Topics.

House GOP OKs spending earmarks, boosting infrastructure plan

From Transport Topics.

House Republicans voted to allow their members to request dedicated-spending projects, known as earmarks, following that same move by Democrats, in a positive sign for President Joe Biden’s hopes for a bipartisan infrastructure bill.

The House GOP caucus March 17 voted by secret ballot to approve earmarks, according to people familiar with the matter.

Senate Republicans still have to decide whether to participate in earmarking, which both parties banned in 2011 after years of their association with wasteful projects and with corruption. Advocates say new transparency rules will help address those issues, and encourage the kind of deal-making essential to bipartisan agreements.

“There’s a real concern about the administration directing where money goes; this doesn’t add one more dollar,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said, while not specifying how he voted. “Members here know what’s most important about what’s going on in their district, not Biden.”

Maintaining the ban would have limited the ability of GOP lawmakers winning inclusion of projects important to their constituencies in the infrastructure bill Congress is now poised to debate. Republicans have divided over the issue, however, with some saying earmarks contribute to excess federal spending, at a time that government debt is soaring.

Sen. Mitt Romney, a moderate Utah Republican, said earlier this week that earmarks “have been associated with excess and would represent a turn to the worst.” He argued that “it’s just unnecessary spending and projects that are not necessarily in the national interest but are more akin to the seniority of a particular individual to ask for a particular benefit.”

See the complete article online at Transport Topics.

MTAC marketing activities

MTAC has grown and evolved over the last century, and we felt it was time for a change. We have refreshed our logo to reflect who we are today and to symbolize our future.

After careful consideration, we chose a new logo that reflects a more modern look and captures our mission to represent our members in the Connecticut trucking industry, and the services we provide to them.

Secondly, MTAC would like to give members the opportunity for some great exposure, through the ability to sponsor a newsletter. MTAC has frequently received questions from members about what opportunities exist to further support MTAC while highlighting their business, and this new feature is one way to respond to those requests.

For sponsoring a newsletter, members will have the ability to place a logo and/or a brief text message at the masthead of the newsletter (where the new MTAC logo is displayed in this newsletter) with a link back to their website.

As all MTAC members likely know, this newsletter is sent every Friday morning, and reaches thousands of readers in the industry in Connecticut. Newsletter sponsorship opportunities will be available for $200 per newsletter. Contact MTAC’s Mike Hutchings to reserve your newsletter sponsorships.

SB 884 testimony: Reducing transportation-related carbon emissions

MTAC President Joe Sculley submitted testimony in response to a bill that will move forward with Connecticut joining the Transport Climate Initiative (TCI). The bill intends to implement a program to cap and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation in the state.

In the testimony, Sculley gave several reasons why MTAC opposes the bill. Sculley highlighted that the financial impact to consumers is being understated and explained it will function as a third state-imposed gas tax, in addition to our existing fixed per-gallon excise taxes, and the Petroleum Gross Receipts Tax (PGRT) to name a few examples.

Sculley went on to explain how the trucking industry has already made progress in reducing carbon emission and said “The trucking industry does not object to paying taxes and fees, as long as they are equitably assessed, and the revenue generated will be spent on the highways, roads, and bridges that the industry needs to do its work. Unfortunately, that is not where revenue generated from TCI will be spent. That fact, plus the industry’s strong environmental record over the last 20+ years, leads us to oppose TCI.”

The complete letter is available as a PDF and provided below.

Re: S.B. No. 884 (Comm) An Act Reducing Transportation-Related Carbon Emissions

MTAC Opposes

Co-Chair Cohen, Co-Chair Gresko, Ranking Member Miner, Ranking Member Harding, and members of the Environment Committee, thank you for the opportunity to present this testimony. My name is Joe Sculley, I am the president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut (MTAC), which is a statewide trade association representing small business trucking companies.

MTAC opposes the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) for the following reasons:

  • Transportation-related carbon emissions are being reduced, and will continue to be reduced, without TCI….and TCI acknowledges this
    • TCI modeling states that the region will achieve a 19% reduction of emissions in the same ten year period, even if TCI is not implemented at all, due to federal fuel efficiency and emissions standards
      • Therefore, the claim that TCI will result in a 26% reduction of emissions due to the initiative is overstated. 26-19 = 7%, would be much more reasonable claim
  • The financial impact to consumers is being understated
    • On Dec 17, 2019, and Sep 16, 2020, TCI said that in order to see a 25% emissions reduction under the program, consumers could expect a 17 cent/gallon increase in the price of gas in year one. (A 22% reduction would equate to 9 cent/gallon increase; a 20% reduction would equate to a 5 cent/gallon increase)
    • Now that the MOU has been signed, the Lamont administration is claiming that a 26% emissions reduction under TCI will happen with only a 5 cent/gallon increase in year one
  • It will function like a third state-imposed gas tax, in addition to our existing fixed per gallon excise taxes, and the Petroleum Gross Receipts Tax (PGRT)
  • 9 out of the original 13 TCI state declined to sign the MOU, including the Vice Chairman of the group, Gov Larry Hogan of Maryland
  • Decisions that will raise the cost of fuel will be made by a new interstate bureaucracy, comprised of unelected officials

  • TCI is designed to incentivize (force) people to drive electric vehicles
    • TCI admits that this will increase electricity emissions, and that those emissions will occur outside of the TCI area, in “states without robust clean energy programs”
    • If the Connecticut government is willing to simply disregard this point, that would be quite an abrupt about face from Connecticut’s long-standing contention that out-of-state emissions blowing into Connecticut are the cause of our air quality problems.
  • The trucking industry has already reduced emissions, and continues to reduce emissions, as detailed below.
  • Based on the recent pledges of global automakers, it would appear that a program designed to push everyone to drive electric cars is completely unnecessary
  • This is an unsustainable funding proposal
    • Once everyone is driving electric vehicles and no one is buying fuel, there will be no revenue to continue funding the things TCI is supposed to fund. More taxes will be needed

The trucking industry does not object to paying taxes and fees, as long as they are equitably assessed, and the revenue generated will be spent on the highways, roads, and bridges that the industry needs to do its work. Unfortunately, that is not where revenue generated from TCI will be spent. That fact, plus the industry’s strong environmental record over the last 20+ years, leads us to oppose TCI.

Trucking Industry’s Emission Reduction Progress

All figures are per US EPA

Year: 2002
Mandate/Technology: Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR)
Environmental Benefit: 50% NOx emissions reduction
Cost to Industry: $250 million annually

Year: 2006 – 2010
Mandate/Technology: Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD)
Environmental Benefit: 97% reduction of sulfur in diesel
Cost to Industry: $4 billion annually (in combination with PM/NOx limits)

Year: 2007 – 2010
Mandate/Technology: US EPA PM and NOx limits; Diesel Particulate Filters (DPFs)
Environmental Benefit: 90% reduction of Particulate Matter (PM) “soot” 90% reduction of NOx
Cost to Industry: $4 billion annually (in combination with ULSD)

Year: 2014
Mandate/Technology: US EPA/NHTSA “Phase 1” Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles
Environmental Benefit: 23% reduction of CO2 emissions
Cost to Industry: $8 billion

Year: 2021, 2024, 2027
Mandate/Technology: US EPA/NHTSA “Phase 2” Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles
Environmental Benefit: additional 34 percent reduction of CO2 emissions
Cost to Industry: $20 – $30 billion

NOTE: The Cleaner Trucks Initiative (CTI), which will further reduce NOx emissions, is under development by US EPA and expected to be finalized under the new Administration.

About the Connecticut Trucking Industry

  • 85.8%: number of Connecticut communities that depend exclusively on trucks to move their goods
  • 98%: percent of manufactured tonnage transported by truck in Connecticut
  • $3.4 billion: total trucking industry wages paid in Connecticut (2018)
  • 61,590: trucking industry jobs in Connecticut (2018)
  • $55,777: average annual salary in Connecticut (2018)
  • $9,026: average annual CT-imposed highway user fees paid by tractor trailers (as of 1/1/2020)
  • $8,906: average annual fed-imposed highway user fees paid by tractor trailers (as of 1/1/2020)

HB 6539 testimony: CDL holders and pretrial alcohol education programs

MTAC President Joe Sculley submitted a second testimony this week in response to a bill concerning commercial driver’s license holders and pretrial alcohol education programs.

The main reason MTAC opposes the bill, Sculley explained, is that “if enacted, this will violate federal regulation which will result in the loss of federal highway funds for the State of Connecticut.”

The testimony went on to say “Based on publicly available data showing highway funds apportioned under the federal FAST Act, after the first year of non-compliance with the federal regulation, about $18,063,041 in federal highway funds would be withheld from Connecticut. After the second year of non-compliance, $36,126,082 in federal highway funds would be withheld. These numbers are based on FY 2020 figures. They could increase if more funds are appropriated to Connecticut after the enactment of this bill.”

The complete letter is available as a PDF and provided below.

Re: Raised Bill 6539 — An Act Concerning Commercial Driver’s License Holders and Pretrial Alcohol Education Programs

MTAC Opposes

Co-Chair Stafstrom, Co-Chair Winfield, Ranking Member Kissel, Ranking Member Fishbein, and members of the Judiciary Committee, thank you for the opportunity to submit this testimony. I am Joe Sculley, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut (MTAC), which is a statewide trade association representing small business trucking companies.

The main reason for MTAC’s opposition is that, if enacted, this will violate federal regulation which will result in the loss of federal highway funds for the State of Connecticut. Based on publicly available data showing highway funds apportioned under the federal FAST Act, after the first year of non-compliance with the federal regulation, about $18,063,041 in federal highway funds would be withheld from Connecticut. After the second year of non-compliance, $36,126,082 in federal highway funds would be withheld. These numbers are based on FY 2020 figures. They could increase if more funds are appropriated to Connecticut after the enactment of this bill.

The federal regulation that would be violated is 49 CFR 384.226.

49 CFR §384.226: Prohibition on masking convictions

The State must not mask, defer imposition of judgment, or allow an individual to enter into a diversion program that would prevent a CLP or CDL holder’s conviction for any violation, in any type of motor vehicle, of a State or local traffic control law (other than parking, vehicle weight, or vehicle defect violations) from appearing on the CDLIS driver record, whether the driver was convicted for an offense committed in the State where the driver is licensed or another State.

49 CFR §384.401 – Withholding of funds based on noncompliance

(a) Following the first year of noncompliance. An amount up to 4 percent of the Federal-aid highway funds required to be apportioned to any State under each of sections 104(b)(1), (b)(3), and (b)(4) of title 23 U.S.C. shall be withheld from a State on the first day of the fiscal year following such State’s first year of noncompliance under this part.

(b) Following second and subsequent year(s) of noncompliance. An amount up to 8 percent of the Federal-aid highway funds required to be apportioned to any State under each of sections 104(b)(1), (b)(3), and (b)(4) of title 23 U.S.C. shall be withheld from a State on the first day of the fiscal year following such State’s second or subsequent year(s) of noncompliance under this part.

Furthermore, the federal regulations cover additional considerations for a State found in “substantial noncompliance” under 49 CFR §384.405 – Decertification of State CDL Program. The Administrator will consider determining whether the CDL program of a State in substantial noncompliance should be decertified.

This would mean that the State of Connecticut would be prohibited from issuing Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDLs). Not only does that mean there would be no new truck drivers in Connecticut, it means that those currently holding CDLs in Connecticut would not be able to renew them. Ultimately that would mean there would be no truck drivers from the State of Connecticut. There are currently about 12,700 truck drivers from Connecticut.

I can understand the argument that “it’s not fair” that one person can go through a pre-trial diversion program if they get arrested for DUI in a passenger car, but their neighbor who does the exact same thing cannot, simply because they have a CDL. However, being a truck driver is a very important job that comes with lots of responsibility. Most truck drivers recognize that they are held to a higher standard than other drivers, and that standard is something that comes with the job. That standard comes with the job because highway safety is an absolute priority to the trucking industry. Because the industry prioritizes safety, it cannot support a policy that would hide the drunk driving arrests of its drivers. This is especially true regarding drunk driving arrests that would be incurred by people who are not of legal drinking age, which is what this bill would do.

In order to prioritize safety, and preserve Connecticut’s receipt of federal highway funds, I urge rejection of this proposal.

About the Connecticut Trucking Industry

  • 85.8%: number of Connecticut communities that depend exclusively on trucks to move their goods
  • 98%: percent of manufactured tonnage transported by truck in Connecticut
  • $3.4 billion: total trucking industry wages paid in Connecticut (2018)
  • 61,590: trucking industry jobs in Connecticut (2018)
  • $55,777: average annual salary in Connecticut (2018)
  • $9,026: average annual CT-imposed highway user fees paid by tractor trailers (as of 1/1/2020)
  • $8,906: average annual fed-imposed highway user fees paid by tractor trailers (as of 1/1/2020)