The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released its five regulatory priorities last month, and increasing the insurance minimum for commercial motor vehicle operators was not among them.
Speculation has circulated that Scott Darling, the acting administrator for the FMCSA and the agency's chief counsel, omitted the proposed increase due to the Senate confirmation hearings he faces this fall. President Obama nominated him in August to officially replace Anne Ferro, who left FMCSA last year
Industry insiders claimed he does not want to provoke potential supporters who oppose new regulations.
“I’d be shocked if they did anything or they made any changes until Darling’s confirmation goes through,” said Annette Sandberg, a former FMCSA administrator.
Sandberg, who is now employed by a private consulting business, spoke about this notable absence at the FTR Transportation Conference in Indianapolis last month. The five items the FMCSA listed as priorities for the rest of 2015 were safety fitness determination, inspection modernization, a unified registration system, compliance, safety, accountability for Phase III and electronic logging devices.
The increase, which was hotly contested by the National School Transportation Association, as well as the motorcoach and trucking industries, would have reportedly doubled the $5 million minimum insurance coverage required of private bus and motorcoach operators.
The regulatory action caused enough controversy for the industries to reach out to congressional allies to get the FMCSA to reevaluate any proposed changes and release an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to determine whether or not the increase was necessary.
Incidentally, there were persistent rumors that the minimum could have been raised to as much as $20 to $30 million per incident or claim.
“We don’t know when the confirmation hearings will be held, but I think that’s clearly in play with some of these regulations and studies,” said Sandberg.
Recently, the United Motorcoach Association lobbied Congress to add a provision to a highway-funding bill before the House that would prevent the FMCSA from instigating any insurance increase.