Abusive lawsuits. Targeted truck-tolling schemes. The monopolization of intermodal chassis. Apart from being legally dubious and uniformly odious, what do these infamous practices have in common?
All of them are animated by a belief that trucking companies are fair game to be shaken down to line trial lawyers’ pockets, fill government coffers, or pad the record profits of foreign-owned ocean carriers. But treating trucks as rolling personal piggy banks is destructive, and it comes at the expense of hardworking professional truck drivers and the viability of our nation's supply chain.
The American Trucking Associations is an alliance of winners. Our Federation knows the legislative and regulatory arenas are crucial, which is why we engage with lawmakers and administration officials at the highest levels of government to advocate for our members. We play to win, and the results speak for themselves.
These same principles apply in the legal arena, which is equally critical. Keeping our eye on the ball, we have struck a number of historic victories in this field in recent years:
Quashing Rhode Island Truck Tolling
When Rhode Island embarked on a truck-only toll scheme called RhodeWorks, ATA and the Rhode Island Trucking Association warned the state that its discriminatory scheme was unconstitutional for disproportionately foisting the cost of bridge and road repairs on truckers.
Rhode Island refused to listen, we sued, and the Ocean State learned an expensive lesson when the judge decided the case in our favor in September 2022. The bombshell ruling halted similar proposals being considered in Connecticut, New York, Indiana, Texas, and Wyoming.
This court victory has continued to reverberate in state capitals from coast to coast, disabusing other lawmakers who might have viewed trucks as a convenient revenue target to bail out their budgets.
Reigning in Lawsuit Abuse
The trucking industry remains a favorite target for the plaintiffs' bar's abusive litigation practices. Staged accidents, third-party litigation financing, and nuclear verdicts have jeopardized drivers’ livelihoods, perverted the justice system, and strained the supply chain.
But the ATA Federation doesn't roll over—we fight back. Spearheaded by our phalanx of state trucking associations, our industry is racking up reforms to the system that curb lawsuit abuse and ensure justice drives accident litigation outcomes, not attorney profits. State by state, legislatures and governors are waking up to the fact that the Jackpot Justice industry's exploitations of the civil system must be reigned in.
.@FloridaTrucking was proud to be represented by members, Jimmy Davis of @DavisExpress, Matthew Penland of @CypressTruck, and Rendy Taylor of @TruckingShelton, as @GovRonDeSantis signed major tort reform into law today. pic.twitter.com/n4isj4Pfsy— Florida Trucking Association (@FloridaTrucking) March 24, 2023
This campaign isn't about limiting liability—it is about reforming specific rules and practices that enable plaintiffs’ attorneys to inflate damages and engineer unfair, disproportionate verdicts and settlements. So long as the plaintiffs' bar relies on these tactics to extort windfall profits, we'll continue to fight reforms that restore fairness and balance to the system.
Halting a Destructive OSHA Mandate
In November 2021, the Biden Administration proposed a vaccinate-or-test mandate for large employers, which exceeded the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's authority and would have imposed extraordinary costs on our industry and across the entire economy. Our member surveys revealed a large percentage of our driver workforce would opt to leave their jobs before submitting to the government's mandate.
Within a week of OSHA’s announcement, the ATA filed suit. Demonstrating the strength of our challenge, the trucking industry’s case was one of only two that the Supreme Court chose to hear on the issue of employer COVID-19 mandates—out of more than a dozen emergency applications to the high court.
In January 2022, before the mandate went into effect, the Supreme Court sided with ATA in ruling that OSHA far overstepped its authority. Thanks to this ruling, the trucking industry was able to continue to deliver critical goods and move our economy forward.
Ensuring Chassis Choice
For more than a decade, foreign-owned ocean shipping lines colluded to take advantage of American trucking companies by requiring them to use specific intermodal chassis providers at port and inland locations. This imposed nearly $1.8 billion in costs on American truckers and consumers over a period of just three years.
The ATA’s Intermodal Motor Carriers Conference sued the Ocean Carrier Equipment Management Association and 11 ocean carriers over this unreasonable and unjust requirement. In 2023, a Federal Maritime Commission administrative law judge ruled in ATA’s favor, restoring trucking companies’ right to use the equipment of their choice. This triumph will help reduce supply chain delays and cut costs for carriers and consumers.
Don't Miss the Trucking Legal Forum
The ATA Litigation Center is a driving force behind many of these legal victories. Led by ATA General Counsel Rich Pianka and Deputy General Counsel Pamela Bracher, the Litigation Center represents ATA in cases that have broad public policy implications for the trucking industry, monitors the legal landscape and keeps members abreast of the latest developments, and, when necessary, does not hesitate to defend the legal interests of the trucking industry in court.
In just a few weeks, from July 16-19 in La Jolla, California, the ATA Litigation Center will host the 2023 Trucking Legal Forum. This annual conference is the trucking industry’s premier legal event, providing unparalleled networking and educational opportunities for transportation legal counsel and trucking executives as well as safety, risk management, and human resources professionals.
Members should not miss the chance to register for this opportunity to hear from an impressive group of legal, technical, and business experts, who will share their perspectives on a wide array of legal topics that are pertinent to the trucking industry.
The Trucking Legal Forum will be forward-focused on the legal threats facing our industry, effective tactics to defend against them, and opportunities to advance the ball. In order to sustain our momentum against formidable legal foes, we must remain unified, focused, and committed to victory.
The Legal Forum is a critical time to gather, strategize, and speak clearly with one voice.