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.
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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