A pursuit underway at the Georgia statehouse follows the recommendation of a special legislative panel to help address the needs of truck drivers in the state.
More than a dozen state senators are listed as sponsors of a bill that would repeal the state’s direct-action statute.
The state’s direct-action rule was a leading topic of a legislative panel that met last year to discuss issues described as contributing to a truck driver shortage.
Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John King told the panel that Georgia is one of four states with a direct-action law. He said the law that allows a plaintiff to take direct action against the responsible insurance company needs to be repealed.
“Georgia does not allow any insurer to be named as a defendant in any other business except trucking,” King testified. “Only the trucking industry is subject to these kinds of requirements.”
State lawmakers also shared their concerns about the rule. Senate Majority Leader Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, said the cost of insurance for truck drivers has risen so rapidly over the past few years it is creating a competitive issue with other states.
“Georgia is at a competitive disadvantage … because of the cost of their insurance here in Georgia,” he said.
Senate Bill 426
The Senate bill introduced this week would put into place limits on lawsuits filed by individuals injured in truck-related incidents.
In place since the 1930s, Georgia law permits injured individuals to sue truck drivers’ insurance companies directly.
Sponsored by Sen. Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia, SB426 would eliminate the state’s direct-action law. Certain exceptions would apply to the direct-action ban, including instances when a trucking operation enters bankruptcy.
Gooch sounded confident this week that the legislation will be approved.
“We will pass legislation to limit direct-action lawsuits,” he said in prepared remarks.
SB426 will start in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Today Georgia Senate Republicans announced our priorities for the 2024 Legislative Session. It’s time to finish the drill and deliver Big Ideas and Big Wins for everyday Georgians. pic.twitter.com/MqicK8nxVo
— GA Senate Republicans (@GASenateGOP) January 29, 2024
Other truck issues covered
The Senate Study Committee on Truck Driver Shortages held four hearings in the lead-up to the start of the 2024 regular session.
The committee was assembled to look at how the issue could affect the economy as a whole, as well as every supply chain. Additionally, the group was charged with addressing what is described as an “instructional opportunity gap” in training prospective truck drivers.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association asserts that although many state trucking associations are telling lawmakers there is a shortage of truck drivers with commercial driver’s licenses, this is not accurate.
“The common thread with all these efforts to create new drivers will be incentives from taxpayers,” OOIDA President Todd Spencer previously said. He added that standards need to be developed for measuring performance – leading to safe drivers staying on the job.
“If the standards are not met, the money must be paid back,” Spencer said.
At the group’s final gathering, Chairman Jason Anavitarte unveiled about a dozen recommendations in its nearly 30-page report.
Recommendations included addressing the difficult application processes in insurance requirements to enter the trucking industry, identifying opportunities to support veterans obtaining CDLs, better educating young adults about opportunities for trucking careers and encouraging the Department of Corrections to explore creating a CDL training program for inmates nearing release.
The panel also highlighted the need for expanded truck parking options. Specifically, it recommended working with the Georgia Department of Transportation to expand options and limit unauthorized truck parking.
The Legislature can consider implementation of the recommendations during the session that is scheduled to end March 8. LL