The work of the ATA Insurance Task Force (ITF) directly addresses this issue. The ITF was created to assist motor carriers to find affordable insurance and chose tort reform as a means of attacking the underlying cause of high insurance rates: outrageous and unfair verdicts caused by a deeply flawed judicial system. The ITF focuses its efforts on those reforms most important to the trucking industry (e.g., elimination of joint and several liability, caps on punitive damages, the recognition of collateral sources, the admissibility of non-use of seat belts), and anti-indemnification provision in state statutes. The ITF works closely with state trucking associations to ensure that trucking industry interests are included in state tort reform efforts.
Significant successes have been achieved in many states where the ITF, through the state trucking association, has taken an active role. The ITF has become a major financial contributor to tort reform through state trucking associations and through national reform coalitions and groups, including the American Tort Reform Association and the Institute for Legal Reform. Most notably, starting from only eight states a few years ago, state trucking associations, funded in many instances by the ITF, have now obtained motor carrier anti-indemnification laws in 46 of the states.
Motor carriers should be required as a part of the national transportation policy to have liability coverage adequate to protect the public, at reasonable minimum limit levels. A motor carrier should be allowed to self-insure under controlled conditions if it can show the ability to meet its obligations. The ATA Insurance Task Force provides a forum for the discussion of issues related to motor carrier insurance, and in particular reforms to the civil justice system.
ATA supports (1) incentives to render state benefit systems fair, equitable, and cost-effective, (2) programs to reduce workplace accidents and lost time, (3) a federal role in worker’s compensation that is limited to research and technical assistance to the states, and (4) the enactment of state laws that generally provide uniformity and equity in the compensation process and specifically allow motor carriers and their employees to agree that the law of a particular state shall govern any worker’s compensation claims. ATA believes that neither states nor insurers should require independent contractors used by motor carriers to be covered under the carriers’ worker’s compensation policies.
ATA believes that reasonable reforms to state and federal civil justice systems will not only help to maintain and, where necessary, to restore equity in the American tort system, but that such reforms are the best means of ensuring the long-term affordability of insurance for motor carriers. To this end, the ATA Insurance Task Force, funded solely by special contributions from interested parties, makes grants to state trucking associations for them to pursue tort reforms and, on occasion, the defense of reforms already achieved. The focus areas of the Task Force are: (1) the elimination of joint and several liability, (2) the full apportionment of damages according to comparative fault, (3) the limitation of awards of punitive damages, (4) the limitation of awards for noneconomic damages, (5) the recognition of collateral sources of benefits, (6) the admission into evidence of the failure of an injured party to wear a seat belt, both to establish contributory negligence and to mitigate damages, (7) the establishment of the failure to wear a seat belt as a primary traffic offense, (8) the establishment of reasonable state venue rules for interstate motor carriers, and (9) the enactment of state laws declaring that indemnification or additional-insured provisions in motor carrier transportation contracts are void as against public policy to the extent they require the shifting of risk for a party’s own negligence or misconduct.