Federal Government Actually Announces It Is Not Going to Enforce Its Own Trucking Safety Rules, Increasing The Likelihood Of Traffic Deaths

Approximately 5,000 people per year are killed in tractor-trailer crashes in the United States.  One of the leading causes for these crashes is that the truck driver was just too tired to drive safely.

Tractor-trailer collisions are much more likely to cause serious injuries or death than crashes that only involve cars, for many reasons.  The massive size and weight of these vehicles alone makes them much more likely to kill people if they go out of control.

Most people don’t realize it, but driving a tractor-trailer is very different from driving a car. Truck drivers have far less ability to see around the vehicle than car drivers do, they need much longer stopping distances, and the truck driver has way less ability to control the vehicle in an emergency situation.   Because the risks of driving a tractor-trailer are so much higher, a safe truck driver must constantly be on the alert.

It’s difficult to maintain this required high level of alertness for very long periods of time.  It’s difficult for anyone to keep this level of attention for long periods of time. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) is a federal agency that regulates truck drivers and trucking companies in order to keep the public safe. This agency has strict rules in place which limit the number of hours a truck driver can drive. These rules, commonly called the “Hours of Service” rules, are extremely important to protect all of us from tractor-trailer drivers who are too tired to drive safely. For many years, these Hours of Service rules have done just that.

But now the FMSCA has announced that it has decided that it is not going to enforce some of its Hours of Service regulations between December 16, 2014 and September 30, 2015. They haven’t repealed the rules – they simply said that they decided that they’re not going to enforce them.

Unfortunately, the agency seems to have forgotten that the very reason it exists is to keep the public safe.   It’s right there in the name: Federal Motor Carrier SAFETY Administration.

There is absolutely no good reason for this.  Only the federal government could think that it makes sense to adopt safety rules  to protect us all and then publicly announce that  those rules are not going to be enforced. Not enforcing them puts the safety of every driver and passenger on the road at risk, including those truck drivers who drive safely. It is a statistical certainty that there will be an increase in traffic deaths because of this decision, and the FMCSA should immediately announced that it is going to enforce these rules, for the protection of us all.

If you were injured in a crash involving a truck, tractor-trailer or other large vehicle, an experienced injury attorney can help you. These crashes are not like regular car crashes, in part because it’s extremely important to get the truck drivers log books showing the hours he was driving.  Many crashes are caused by the truck driver’s violating the safety rules, including the hours of service rules.  The federal laws require  truck drivers to keep these records  of  the hours they drove, but also allow them to throw those records out after a certain period of time.  In order to preserve  this very important evidence, it’s best to hire an experienced tractor-trailer and truck crash attorney as soon as possible after the crash,  while the evidence still exists.

At Curran Law Firm, we can help you. Please call us at 417-823-7500 for a free consultation. We’re happy to discuss your situation with you, either over the phone or in person. For free information on what to do following a crash, click here.

Some Insurance Companies Are Secretly Reducing Insurance Coverage Amounts. Let’s Stop This Misleading Practice!

Some insurance companies have recently started inserting fine print in their motor vehicle insurance policies which severely cuts down on the amount of coverage the policy provides, even though the policy specifically states a higher dollar insurance limit on the first page.  This is an underhanded way of shortchanging the customer, and everybody should stay far away from any insurance company that does this.

Shelter Insurance Company is one company that has started doing this, and I suggest that anyone who is insured with Shelter immediately switch insurance companies, making sure to vocally tell Shelter exactly why you switched companies.

So how does this trick work? Here’s an example. John Smith buys a Shelter motor vehicle liability insurance for his car that says it provides liability insurance coverage up to $100,000 per person and $200,000 per accident. Missouri law only requires $25,000 in coverage, but Mr. Smith pays good money to Shelter to get more coverage than that. Missouri insurance laws require that Mr. Smith’s policy provide insurance coverage not only to him, but also to any person he loans his car to.  So if, for example, John loans his car to someone else (whether it’s his neighbor, or a co-worker, or his brother-in-law, etc.), Missouri law requires Shelter to provide that person with coverage under Mr. Smith’s policy.

But Shelter is now burying a provision in its policies that says that for those other people, those “permissive users” who Mr. Smith loans his car to, Shelter will not provide $100,000 in insurance coverage, but will drop the insurance level all the way down to Missouri’s minimum of $25,000 per person.  In other words, even though Shelter continues to charge Mr. Smith premiums based on the $100,000 policy limits, they are only going to provide $25,000 in coverage to the driver in this situation.

Insurance companies even have an innocent-sounding name for this deceptive tactic. They call it a “step-down provision.”  In case anybody’s interested in the details, here’s the actual language of the fine print that Shelter is putting in these policies to do this:


Some individuals who qualify as an insured, qualify only because they have been given permission or general consent to use the described auto covered by this policy. The financial responsibility laws of the state require that any person who operates an automobile in the state, be covered for a specific amount of liability insurance.

Those individuals, who are covered by this policy solely because they were given permission or general consent to use the described auto, will be covered only for the minimum limits of liability insurance coverage specified by the financial responsi­bi­li­ty law applicable to the accident, unless a specific coverage states otherwise.

Even though the permissive user limit for coverage will be established at that minimum limit, other qualified insureds will continue to be provided full policy limits, subject to any limitations or exclusions present.



Step-Down Limits Statement

For persons who become insureds solely because they have permission or general consent to use the described auto, this policy provides only the limits required by the financial responsibility law. For this state, those limits are $25,000 bodily injury for each person, $50,000 bodily injury for each accident, and $10,000 property damage for each accident. (The policy defines the bold terms.)


I urge everyone who reads this to please:

(i) switch insurance companies if your policy contains this type of language.  If you’re unsure, call your insurance company and ask them if there’s a provision like this in your policy.


(ii) complain now to the Missouri Department of Insurance about this deceptive tactic.  You can very simply and easily file a complaint online at this page: https://insurance.mo.gov/consumers/complaints/consumerComplaint.php

If you don’t want to   come up with your own wording about this deceptive practice, I suggest you simply copy and paste this:

I strongly urge the Missouri Department of Insurance to adopt rules forbidding insurance companies from putting so-called “step-down” provisions in their policies. These provisions mislead the insured into thinking that they and those they loan their cars to have a certain level of coverage when in fact these provisions deprive them of the amount of coverage they bought and paid for. While everyone should read their policy when they get it,   it’s unrealistic to think that the average customer will actually understand that their policy which has a $100,000 per person liability  limit on its declaration page  actually only provides $25,000 in coverage to a permissive user.   Insurance companies are getting away with providing less coverage than the declarations pages state, and it’s not fair. It shortchanges consumers and in the interest of protecting the public this  deceptive practice should be forbidden by insurance department regulations. Thank you for your attention.

Curran Law Firm thanks you for  for reading this and for taking these actions.   They help protect both you and the general public in Missouri!

If you need help with an insurance policy issue or question, please feel free to call Robert Curran at Curran Law Firm at 417-823-7500.    We are experienced insurance attorneys,  having represented both insurance companies and individuals making claims against insurance companies for many years.