DOT camera view from I-80 near Colfax.

Iowa’s trucking industry would get significant liability protection from lawsuits under a bill that’s cleared its first hurdle in the Iowa House.

According to David Scott, a lobbyist for the Iowa Motor Truck Association,  delivery trucks, construction vehicles and pick-ups owned by businesses would be covered as well as semis.

“We brought this bill forward in the hopes to bring some fairness to nuclear verdicts around the country of $50 (million),$60 (million), $90 million dollars,” Scott said. “The legislation provides a degree of predictability to all 804,000 commercial vehicles in Iowa.”

The bill would exempt businesses from paying damages in cases where their employee was found negligent in a trucking accident. Kellie Paschke, a lobbyist for the Iowa Association for Justice which representing trial lawyers, said the bill protects bad actors who fail to maintain trucks or tell drivers to stay on the road when they’re supposed to be resting.

“These are decisions that are made by employers, not employees,” Paschke said, “and what this bill does is make the employees the scapegoat for the employers’ bad decisions.”

The state’s farm cooperatives, the Pork Producers and farm equipment dealers as well as two convenience store chains back the bill. Scott Weiser is a lobbyist for CRST and Annett Holdings, the state’s two largest trucking companies.

“We know it’s a difficult issue but the time has come,” Weiser said. “The availability of the market for our insurance is very, very tight.”

Dan McKay, an insurance consultant for the Iowa Bar Association, told lawmakers insurance rates for commercial vehicles are competitive.

“We have to talk about the people who are injured or damaged by the negligent acts of this carrier,” McKay said.

In civil cases in which a trucking company is considered liable in an accident, non-economic or pain and suffering damages could be no more than $1 million if the bill becomes law. The bill cleared a House subcommittee this morning after a public hearing. The proposal was one of Governor Kim Reynolds’ legislative priorities last year, but it ran into opposition in the House.

Radio Iowa