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Statehouse Primer
You break it, you buy it?

By Mike Matousek, OOIDA Director of State Legislative Affairs

Here is a quick scenario: You walk into a store, bump into an item, and knock it off of the shelf. The item breaks. If it was your fault, you pay for it. If it was not your fault – perhaps because the item was not displayed or secured properly – the store pays for it.

This is commonly accepted as the “You break it, you buy it” policy where the negligent party is held liable for any damage, in this case, to the broken item. As a consumer, you would not expect to enter a store and be held liable for the loss or damage of an item resulting from the store’s negligence. Conversely, businesses should not be held liable for a consumer’s carelessness.

So why should it be any different in the trucking industry?

As reported by Land Line State Legislative Editor Keith Goble, there are currently 41 states with anti-indemnification laws on the books. These laws prohibit shippers, brokers and receivers from including “hold harmless” provisions in their contracts with truckers. The nine states without a law are Arkansas, Delaware, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont. In short, there are nine states that believe if something breaks, the trucker should buy it.
While it is not known to be a widespread problem, the ability of shippers, brokers and receivers to include indemnification provisions in a contract exists, and it is wrong. Until all states prohibit this practice, I will work with state trucking associations and other interested stakeholders to make sure that state lawmakers are aware of this issue and get them to do something about it.

How you can help
The more active you are in the legislative process, the better. However, because you are extremely busy and spend a lot of time on the road, face-to-face interactions with your state legislators might not be possible.

Fortunately, OOIDA has a great advocacy resource to help you connect more easily with your elected officials. Occasionally, you will receive a “Call to Action” email. With three clicks, you can generate an electronic message, customize it at your discretion, and send it via email to your elected officials. Believe it or not, most politicians do like to hear from those they represent, and even a quick email will help us more effectively fight for your rights as a trucker.

Until then, be careful about the contracts you sign, especially with a company in a state without an anti-indemnification law. And if you happen to come across a contract that includes a “hold harmless” provision from a company in a state with an anti-indemnification law, please get in touch with me at 816-229-5791, or mike_matousek@ooida.com. LL