LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Hundreds of people from across the state convened at the Golden Nugget in Lake Charles this week for the 72nd annual Louisiana Forestry Meeting.
One of the hot topics at the convention was insurance for logging trucks in the state.
The forest products industry employs more than 30,000 people in Louisiana, according to the Department of Agriculture and Forestry. Transportation jobs in the industry are currently facing challenges.
“Mining, ranching, agriculture, farming, fisheries, even crabbing, have all increased their safety ability, not only to protect their own employees, but also not to cause property damage, injuries and fatalities of other people," said Jean Pierre Fontenot. "There’s only one exception in that natural resource industry, that’s logging.”
Fontenot is the Program Director for the North American Timber Program and the senior Vice President of Paragon Insurance Holdings.
He said the dangers posed by logging trucks in Louisiana is just one of the reasons why it’s becoming harder, and more expensive, to find insurance as a logging truck driver.
He said other factors include poor road conditions and in influx in personal injury lawyers across the state.
“Your state, with only 27%, or 27th in population, you have the fifth highest per capita lawyers in the United States," Fontenot said.
It’s a message that Steve Matlock, who’s on the other side of the trucking business as the safety director for Murphy Bros. Trucking & Construction, LLC, agrees with.
“We’re one of I think maybe two or three states, where, in a legal matter, they can sue your insurance company. They sue your company, they sue your driver, and they sue your insurance company," Matlock said.
He said it’s getting to the point where it’s almost not profitable to own a logging truck in the state, because insurance costs are so high.
As for a solution, he said it starts with increasing safety in the industry.
Then, he said it’s going to be a matter of more competition coming in to lower insurance rates, and legislators stepping in to help make that happen.
That was one of several sessions throughout the week, as the convention began on Tuesday and runs through Thursday.