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February 20, 2020

Transportation Annual Year in Review: 2020

In a recent article in The Atlantic, Derek Thompson argues that the efforts of Big Tech these past few decades—which have given us loads of data, software, and digital optimization as well as the ability to take pictures with our phones—have made a small number of people very rich and enhanced life for many of us, but only around the margins. What Big Tech has failed to do, so far, is deliver the new Industrial Revolution we were promised. In the world of transportation, for example, Thompson notes that, instead of the promised Eden of self-driving cars, we have the gridlock-inducing delivery of millions of packages every day by part-time contractor drivers who are not provided with the types of benefits that those of us of a certain age tend to take for granted. So far, the new economy has failed to increase wealth across the board. Millions of our citizens feel economically stagnated.

Meanwhile, in the legacy trucking world, the ongoing war of attrition between owner-operators and motor carriers continues to take its toll. Even successful companies operate on the tightest of margins while drivers struggle to support their families. Last year, a number of large truckers closed down, blaming high insurance rates. Yet, most insurance companies writing commercial auto risks are losing money, which commentators partially attribute to reptile tactics by the plaintiff bar. Here too, whatever wealth is out there is not being distributed broadly, and industry players are under constant economic pressure.

The accompanying pieces focus on different areas of law that relate to motor carriers and their insurers. While there is not a single theme that runs through the case law, the tensions described above underlie a fair percentage of the legal controversies described in the different sections. There was a flurry of activity at the end of 2019 with respect to California legislation aimed at solving what some see as the misclassification of employees, particularly in the new gig economy; others see the legislation as a bullet aimed at the heart of traditional businesses such as trucking companies. The story of the California statute known as AB-5 is told—to date—in “The Clash of Federal and State Law” section.

For the first time in many years, we do not have a section dedicated to the MCS-90 endorsement; the few cases discussing the endorsement are located in the “Miscellaneous” section. Phil Bramson and I are delighted to announce, though, that the book we’re writing with underwriter Carl Sadler on the MCS-90 will be published soon.

Phil, who has worked by my side for 20 years, recently announced he will be cutting back on his legal work starting in March. He will still work with us on projects and has agreed to continue to edit Transportation Annual Year in Review. It will be very strange, though, not to have him next door to my office; I will greatly miss our daily interactions.

On behalf of our Transportation Team, it is our pleasure to share our summaries and evaluations of some of the key developments in the transportation arena this past year with you. As always, we look forward to your reactions and comments.

Read more here.

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