Texas has a fault-based system for motor vehicle accidents, meaning the negligent party’s insurance company is usually responsible for the victim’s injuries and losses. When those involved in a crash are off the clock, personal auto insurance coverage can come into play. If even one party was working when the truck collision occurred:
- Commercial insurance can enter the picture.
- Establishing liability may be more complex.
Regardless of who may be at fault for an 18-wheeler wreck, here’s a look at the insurance requirements for commercial vehicles and why they matter.
Insurance Requirements for Large Commercial Trucks in Texas
Large commercial trucks, just like passenger vehicles and small commercial vehicles, are required to carry a minimum amount of insurance coverage in order to legally traverse the roads of Texas.
Notably, however, larger trucks tend to have more extensive insurance requirements and steeper liability limits. That’s generally because larger trucks tend to be associated with more severe injuries and more extensive damages, as opposed to smaller trucks, when they’re involved in wrecks.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) oversees commercial motor vehicles and sets the insurance coverage requirements for them. Some of these requirements are featured in the table below.
|General Definition||Minimum Insurance Coverage Requirements|
For-hire commercial vehicles in interstate or foreign commerce that have a gross weight rating over 10,000 lbs. and that do not transport hazardous materials
|Low Hazmat Trucks||Commercial vehicles in interstate or foreign commerce weighing at least 10,000 lbs. and transporting oil, hazardous waste, or other hazardous materials||
|High Hazmat Trucks||Commercial vehicles in foreign, interstate, or intrastate commerce weighing at least 10,001 lbs. and transporting hazardous substances in cargo tanks, portable tanks, or hopper-type vehicles with capacities over 3,500 water gallons.||
Time to Update Commercial Insurance Requirements?
The insurance requirements and liability minimums for commercial vehicles were established by Congressional legislation in the 1980s. Remarkably, these have not been updated since then.
Consequently, some have argued that the minimum liability insurance requirements for motor carriers should be raised to improve compensation for injured third parties.
With that in mind, a groundbreaking study from the U.S. Department of Transportation adjusted the minimum insurance requirements of commercial trucks for inflation (in 2011) and came up with the following numbers:
- General freight carriers, currently required to have $750,000 in coverage (as designated in 1982), would need to carry $3.2 million in coverage to compensate victims at the same level in 2011.
- Low hazmat carriers with $1,000,000 in liability (since 1982) would need to carry $4,271,531 to cover the same level of medical treatment in 2011.
- High hazmat carriers with $5,000,000 in coverage (as enacted in 1982) would need $21,357,657 of coverage in 2011 to compensate victims at the same level.
In other words, for victims to receive the same amount of financial resources they would have received in the ‘80s, truck companies would need to carry about four times the current limits — and those numbers were calculated well over 10 years ago. Adjusted for inflation in 2023, these numbers are likely much higher.
Beyond Commercial Truck Insurance Regulations: Other FMCSA Rules
Minimum insurance requirements for commercial trucks can help protect those hurt in big rig collisions. Along with those insurance requirements, the FMCSA has set forth several other rules and regulations for motor carriers, commercial trucks, and commercial truck drivers in an effort to:
- Minimize the risks and incidence of wrecks
- Protect the motoring public
- Establish penalties for violating federal trucking rules
To that end, the FMCSA has regulations covering insurance requirements, as well as several aspects of the trucking industry, including (but not limited to):
- The qualifications to become a trucker
- Truck operations, such as hours of service limits and trucker logbooks
- Truck repairs and maintenance
- Weigh stations and roadside inspections for large trucks
- Investigations into trucking complaints
- Trucking terminal audits
FMCSA regulations must be followed by any vehicle in the U.S. that is:
- Used on public highways for interstate commerce to transport passengers or property
- Over 10,000 pounds in weight
- Transporting more than 8 people (including the driver) for compensation or more than 15 people (including the driver) without compensation
- Used in the shipment of hazardous materials that require placarding
The FMCSA also conducts compliance reviews, trucking terminal audits, and investigations into complaints filed against motor carriers, issuing out-of-service orders and other punitive actions, as necessary and at their discretion.
Filing Truck Accident Claims with Commercial Insurance Providers
After 18-wheeler accidents and commercial vehicle wrecks, victims may have the right to file claims with commercial insurance providers, seeking compensation for their losses, property damage, medical bills, and more. Even if liability is clear and there is enough evidence to prove commercial liability, it’s not uncommon for insurers to push back, challenge victims’ claims, and try to avoid paying damages.
To get ahead of this and bring the strongest possible claims, it’s generally in victims’ best interests to work with an experienced truck accident attorney.