Experienced? Be prepared to prove it, or it’ll be worthless.

Jaspal Singh Bal can’t get a job. He has 22 years of experience as an AZ driver, the most recent five as an owner-operator. A clean driving record – no claims. But the best price he can get on an insurance premium of his own is $41,500 per year.

That’s because insurance providers can’t verify his experience, and his previous employer won’t issue a Letter of Experience that would detail his employment history. That two-plus decades of experience? Worthless. His job prospects? Futile. He’s unemployable without verifiable experience.

He’s not alone. Lisa Arseneau, commercial producer with Staebler Insurance, has heard from many drivers in a similar situation. It stems from fleets not disclosing their driver roster under their fleet insurance policy.

There’s no legal requirement to do so, though some insurers are becoming more proactive in requiring monthly or quarterly driver and equipment updates.

Fleets are also becoming more familiar with the Experience Letter concept and there is some reciprocity at work: If I need an Experience Letter for a new hire, then I should be prepared to issue one for my former driver and their new employer.

But that’s not always the case. There is still, in some circles, confusion about what exactly an Experience Letter is, or an unwillingness to write one up. Some fleets prefer to wash their hands of a driver who’s left rather than put in the effort to provide an Experience Letter. They are effectively destroying that former employee’s career.

Two multi-ethnic truck drivers, a senior Hispanic man in his 60s and a mid-adult African-American woman in her 30s, standing in front of a fleet of semi-trucks or tractor-trailers. The man is holding a clipboard and they are conversing, looking at each other face to face.
(Photo: iStock)

A determined insurance broker can find a workaround. Arseneau has in some cases gone directly to the insurer of a fleet who refuses to issue an Experience Letter, supplied them with proof of the driver’s employment history such as trip reports and paystubs, and then demanded they run a claims history on the fleet.

If no claims against that driver are found, they will sometimes accept that the driver has accumulated sufficient experience without any claims despite not being listed on a fleet policy. That’s an onerous process, but at present, the only option for some drivers.

The better option is for insurers to put into their fleet policies a requirement for regular disclosure of drivers, as some are now doing. It’s a small administrative burden for the fleet that creates big benefits for both the insurer and the drivers who need that proof of experience to continue their career.

Drivers should check with their carrier to ensure they’re disclosed on its fleet policy so that their experience counts when seeking a new job. If not, be sure that carrier will issue you an Experience Letter if and when you choose to move on. This also applies to owner-operators who are covered under a fleet policy.

Entrepreneurial dreams have been crushed as drivers set out to start their own business as an owner-operator only to find their entire employment history counted for nothing to insurance providers.

Unfortunately, you can’t prove your experience by taking your insurance rep for a drive. Yeah, you can shift gears and back into a tight dock, but you’re a licensed AZ driver – you’re supposed to be able to do all that. Insurers need to see proof in the form of claims history or an Experience Letter, nothing else will suffice.

As an industry that’s starved for experienced drivers, we can’t afford to allow drivers like Bal and his 22 years of clean driving to slip through the cracks over a missing piece of paper. Especially when refusal to issue an Experience Letter is done out of spite, ignorance or just plain laziness.


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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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  • To me, retired with 40 years experience driving everything from Dump Trailers to Tankers both Company and O/O for 20 of those years this Insurance Fiasco is Sad and Ridiculous. I wish this Province had Government Insurance. This would eliminate this nonsense. These 20 year Veterans are what Our Trucking Industry Cherishes and of course it takes the Insurance Industry to deprive this Driver, a valuable asset to any company to be abused and thus unemployable. Shameful and F
    Disgusting. These Insurance Company Crooks need a tighter leash and only the Government has the Power and Authority to implement the Policing of this Ripoff Industry that Prey on these exact Individuals

  • What is the difference between hiring a new driver from a driving school and one who is experienced but has no verifiable experience, Do they both not have to prove there ability?

  • Insurance in this country is nothing more/less then legalized crime , run by mafia’s and governments! Disgusting , and all the while keeping our focus on how corrupt other countries are! The cruelest breed of wolves in sheep skin currently govern this North American continent , on both sides!

  • Some policies will not allow new hires so your job prospects are very limited. Also your pay is reflective of verifiable experience of your insurance costs. So an experienced driver has a very difficult time when switching companies or trying to go on his own. I have the same problem. Had my license since 2006 but I can’t get insurance under my own authorities (for long haul) any more even though my authorities have been active since 2007. I drive long haul in the winters and local for my farm in the summer but it is challenging. I would love to get insurance for long haul but no insurance will allow me under my own authorities even though I’ve been doing it for others for years.

    Insurance needs more options in Ontario. We need a government insurance option so those starting out have something. This shortage