Texas Supreme Court allows loss-of-use damages for total loss cases

On January 8, 2016, the Texas Supreme Court released a decision that reversed a 60-year trend in Texas auto insurance litigation. In J&D Towing, LLC vs. American Alternative Insurance Corp. (AAIC), the Court reversed a confusing trend of prohibiting the recovery of loss-of-use damages in total loss cases. Traditionally, claimants whose damaged property can be repaired are entitled to recovering the cost of repairs as well as loss-of-use damages. Because claimants whose property is totally destroyed often replace the property immediately, and because courts have tried to limit the possibility of double recovery, claimants who have suffered a total loss have only been entitled to the fair market value of the lost property. Though it has been the norm in Texas courts for decades, the Fort Worth Court of Appeals decided in Morrison v. Campbell in 2014 that “there is no compelling or logical reason to treat loss of use claims differently in destroyed property cases than we do in repairable property cases.” The Court was not trying to establish a new general rule, but ruled that a claimant should be able to recover loss-of-use damages on top of the fair market value of lost property when an insurer delays payment on a total loss. This 2014 ruling helped support J&D Trucking’s successful appeal to the Texas Supreme Court concluded two years later. Chronology of the case: How J&D Towing, LLC vs. American Alternative Insurance Corp. (AAIC) upended a 60-year tradition In December 2011, on its way to repossess a vehicle, J&D Towing’s only tow truck was struck in the passenger side by a car. All parties agreed that...

FMCSA Basics: Driver Regulations

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulates interstate trucking and bus transportation. The agency’s regulations and methodologies are ever always in flux, with changes proposed as recently as January 15, 2016. The medical qualifications and regulations for drivers are no exception, though general requirements have remained relatively consistent. Here’s what you need to know about general requirements and recent changes in the regulations. DRIVER REQUIREMENTS For the legal, in-depth version of driver requirements, view Rule 391 on the FMCSA website. In short, CMV drivers are required to: • Be at least 21 years old • Be able to read and speak the English language well enough to dothe job • Be able to safely operate the motor vehicle he/she will be driving • Be physically qualified to operate the vehicle • Have a currently valid commercial motor vehicle operator’s license issued by his/her state of residence • Not be disqualified to operate a motor vehicle • Have successfully completed a road test or its equivalent • Follow the Hours of Service (HOS) regulations • Have a Driver Qualification File w/Medical Certification A Driver Qualification (DQ) file consists of: • An application for employment • A motor vehicle record (MVR) from states • Previous employer information • Road test form and certificate or license or certificate accepted in lieu of road test • Medical exam certificate, original or a copy, plus any letter granting a waiver of a physical disqualification • Annual motor vehicle record • Annual review of driving record • Annual list of violations • Entry-level driver training certificate (if applicable) • Longer combination vehicle driver training certificate (if applicable) Physical qualifications To qualify physically, drivers must not have any the following conditions if it is likely...

FMCSA Essentials: Compliance, Safety, Accountability

The Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program is the cornerstone of the compliance and enforcement efforts of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). CSA collects data on carriers’ safety performance nationwide and targets the FMCSA’s enforcement intervention resources at the most noncompliant and unsafe companies. Rather than rely on FMCSA’s team or law enforcement partners to track millions of CMV companies and commercial driver license holders, the scientific CSA model allows the FMCSA to use data from state partners across the country and correct issues before they cause crashes and cost lives. What are the components of CSA? CSA is made up of three parts: Measurement. CSA uses inspection and crash data to identify high-risk carriers. Evaluation. CSA contacts a large number of high-risk carriers and drivers with customized information and an updated Safety Fitness Determination methodology. Intervention. CSA aims to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of enforcement officers’ interventions, including warning letters, roadside inspections, and investigations. How does the CSA measure safety? Until 2010, FMCSA relied on a data-driven analysis system called SafeStat. While SafeStat successfully identified carriers at risk for crashes, it proved to be too simplistic. Additionally, it did not focus on behaviors of CMV drivers, which the FMCSA Large Truck Crash Causation Study showed needed serious attention. Today the FMCSA uses the Safety Measurement System (SMS), its new “workload prioritization tool.” ¹ The tool continues to undergo improvements. In September 2015, the Safety Measurement System (SMS) Methodology was updated to reflect stakeholders’ suggestions. How does the SMS work? The SMS incorporates motor carrier data from safety-based violations, State-reported crashes, and the Federal motor carrier census to...

It’s Official: The FMCSA Has Published Its Final ELD Rule, to General Acclaim

Adopting electronic logging devices is no longer an option for most interstate CMV operations. On December 16, 2015, the Federal Register published the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s final rule on Electronic Logging Devices and Hours of Service Supporting Documents. Proposed in early 2014 and revealed on December 10th by the FMCSA, the rule requires model year 2000 and newer trucks involved in interstate travel to start using ELDs by December 2017. After a similar 2010 ELD rule failed due to litigation concerning harassment and supporting documents, the FMCSA learned its lesson. It has taken steps to explicitly prohibit the coercion of drivers and even took on authority to enforce the rule against shippers, receivers, and transportation intermediaries—not just motor carriers. While the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and Truck Renting and Leasing Association have raised concerns, responses to the 2015 Final Rule have largely been positive. ELD Final Rule: Key Points Approximately three million commercial vehicle drivers will be impacted by the ELD mandate. There is a two-year compliance window for commercial truck and bus drivers to adopt ELDs. The ELD rule makes procedural and technical provisions to prevent harassment related to ELD data. The rule establishes technology specifications for manufacturers to create compliant devices and allows the use of certified smart phones and other wireless devices as ELDs. Carriers that have already installed compliant automatic onboard recording devices are allowed to keep using them for two years after the compliance date. The FMCSA anticipates that the rule will result in an annual net benefit of more than $1 billion (mostly in processing paperwork time and cost) and the...

Key FMCSA Resources & Definitions for Carriers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is a federal agency under the U.S. Department of Transportation whose primary mission is “to prevent crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses”.¹  This mission translates into a large range of programs and thousands of pages of regulations and resources for carriers, drivers, and consumers. In this section of our FMCSA series, we’ll look at key resources and terms for truck and bus companies looking to comply with federal standards. Key Resources The FMCSA website contains a wealth of information. For example, Carriers can find their company profile and safety information on the Registration and Licensing page. Full updated regulations can be viewed and searched through the Regulations page of the FCMSA website. The website also features 94 FAQs specifically relevant to Carriers. There are thousands of pages of very specific information on the FMCSA website. In 2009 the agency published an easy-to-read guide to the most relevant information: the 162-page A Motor Carrier’s Guide to Improving Highway Safety, a PDF accessible online. IMPORTANT DEFINITIONS The following terms are essential to understand as a carrier. Interstate vs. Intrastate Commerce Interstate commerce describes a vehicle, passengers, or cargo that crosses a state boundary or intends to cross a state boundary. Intrastate commerce occurs within one state. FMCSRs FMCSR is an acronym for Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation. These are published in the Federal Register and compiled in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), parts 300-399. You can search regulations, rule making documents, and notices on the Regulations page of the FMCSA website. HMRs HMRs are Hazardous Materials Regulations. (HMs are hazardous...

Cargo Theft — Security and Responsibility

Cargo Theft is a common crime; a crime of opportunity. Cargo goods are easy to access and abundant across the country.  Statistics estimate that cargo theft cost the shipping industry about $25 billion a year. Cargo theft happens frequently in terminals, truck stops, warehouses, parking lots, and most commonly in trucks parked on the street. This is a problem that occurs all around the country. To minimize Cargo theft we recommend these Prevention Procedures:  About Personnel: Get to know your drivers before hiring by performing a pre-employment screening. Unattended Trucks: Make sure your units are equipped with an alarm system and locked completely. About Routes: Make sure your routes are done with a minimum of stops and don’t leave your vehicle unattended in an unsecured area at any time. About Subcontractors: If you use subcontractors you need to obtain as much information about the company and driver as possible. About Equipment: Secure all trailers or containers making sure they are seal/locked correctly and against a wall. Yards or Parking Lots: Ensure adequate lightning, fences and security cameras and guards are provided to prevent unauthorized vehicles from entering the location....
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