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Calling All Lawyers: Can You Sort Out The HB 19 Trucking Bill in the Texas Lege For Us?

Being No. 1 in the nation is good unless we're talking trucking fatalities.
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Texas led the nation last year with 685 truck-related fatalities, ahead of California with 463, and Florida with 282. iStock
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Calling All Lawyers: Can You Sort Out The HB 19 Trucking Bill in the Texas Lege For Us?

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This morning, criminally early, I stumbled across a piece of legislation, House Bill 19, which caught my attention because I had insomnia and there’s this rabbit hole called YouTube that, well, anyway… I had no idea that Texas had such an abysmal record in trucking fatalities on our roads and highways. According to Ware Wendall of Texas Watch, a consumer group, Texas led the country with 685 trucking fatalities last year alone, which was more than Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, New Mexico, Arizona, Kansas, Colorado, and Mississippi combined.

I thought reckless trucking was just a Pennsylvania Turnpike thing, where my parents narrowly escaped death by truck years ago. So I am sensitive. But here’s how I read this bill: it would eliminate the right in a civil case to hold responsible the company that put the commercial vehicle on the road, no matter that they hired a bad driver, or had maintenance or repair problems. Only the driver would be responsible.

First, know that the bill is still in committee. It will morph. Our Texas House representative from Collin County, Jeff Leach, R-Plano, chairs the committee and sponsored the bill. Still my mind flashed through a number of scenarios, and I’d love to know from the legal world—not just personal liability lawyers but including personal liability lawyers—what this could mean.

Would Uber not be responsible for vetting its drivers? Or, put plainly, would Uber not be incentivized to recruit careful drivers because who cares if their drivers back into another car, it’s on him or her? Would the Amazon driver who was given a truck with a faulty brake system and rams into a pedestrian be responsible, and not Amazon?

And would no investigation be allowed into the company on the commercial license, reserved only for the driver? I’m no lawyer but it makes me feel like passage of this bill will make Texans less safe, not safer. It would be good news I suppose for insurance companies, and commercial trucking and transportation. But guardrails are there for a reason. So is government. To keep us safe. Talk to us in the comments.

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