ELTON — Auto insurance rates in Louisiana are the second highest in the nation.
Elton truck driver Mark Arceneaux knows first hand how high rates can affect business.
"My wife and I came back home to Louisiana three years ago with my sons and our trucks, but they couldn't stay here because of the high insurance rates," Arceneaux said.
His sons moved to Colorado and Texas where insurance is half the cost of what it is in Louisiana, he said.
"Commercial rates in Louisiana are two to three times higher than anywhere else and it's because there is no competition and the system is broken," Arceneaux said.
Arceneaux started trucking in 1978 and has spent nearly four decades driving oversized loads in the U.S. and Canada.
"I always had two or three trucks and always worked in Texas with Texas license plates on our trucks," he said. "We've hauled oversized loads all over the United States and Canada with no accidents or insurance problems."
Four years ago he and his family decided to move back to Louisiana. "That is the biggest mistake we ever did — putting Louisiana license plates on the trucks," he said. "We found out when we crossed the state's lines coming home to put Louisiana license plates on that our Texas insurance cancelled us after 30 years because they couldn't work in Louisiana. ‘Too hard to work over here, can't insure you,' they said."
At that time there were only three insurance companies in Louisiana that would insure big trucks.
"The deck is stacked against us and it's not just big truckers," he said. "It's farmers and anyone else who is a commercial business, but it's time for a change. It's time to see if we can't get the insurance companies and the Legislature to work with us."
Arceneaux is inviting fellow truck drivers to join him in Baton Rouge on Friday to support Senate Bill 418, which would lower personal auto insurance rates.
"Truckers have a big voice," he said. "The muscle is not just under the hood."
Under Senate Bill 418 by Sen. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge, insurers for private drivers would be required to reduce rates at least 10 percent unless they can convince the insurance commissioner they can't afford to do so. Commercial insurers would not be asked to lower rates.
"I'm not a politician, but we've got to do something," Arceneaux said. "We can't keep putting our head in the mud anymore. We need to get the insurance to come down so we can stay home. Too many people and businesses are leaving the state."
The convoy of trucks will leave at 7:30 a.m. today from the Interstate 10 entrance at Jennings and travel to Baton Rouge where they will campout for Friday's vote.
"We need everyone to stand behind us," Arceneaux said. "This affects anybody that pays insurance in Louisiana whether it's car, motorcycle or commercial vehicle."
Senate Bill 418 would also extend the deadline for filing a lawsuit to two years, lower the amount of damages sought in order to have the case heard by jury instead of a judge and limit medical expenses recovered to the actual payments made, rather than what a health care provider charges. It would also require lawsuits to be filed against the other driver, rather than the insurance company and allow judges and juries to reduce damage awards if the injured plaintiff was not wearing a safety belt.