As a fleet manager or owner-operator, you’ve likely always thought of insurance as a commodity you begrudgingly paid for as a necessary cost of doing business. I know that’s how I feel as a motorist who has never had to file a claim.
Chances are, you did little to nurture your relationship with your broker, or insurer’s underwriter. And chances are, your premiums have been going through the roof, leaving you scratching your head and wondering what you did wrong.
As detailed on the cover of this issue, insurance premiums are on the rise, due to a perfect storm of sorts, that has seen some insurers abandon trucking altogether and those that remain hike premiums – often in the double digits. There are many factors driving this trend: more expensive trucks, resulting in costlier repairs; settlements against truckers that are often in the millions of dollars; the exodus of some insurance providers; and the need by those who remain, to recover premiums lost as they dropped risky business.
The initial reaction would understandably be one of disappointment, even anger. But the always pragmatic Mark Seymour, head of Kriska Transportation Group, takes a different view. This is what he had to say late last year at the Truckload Carriers Association’s Bridging Border Barriers conference: “It’s not a function of insurance companies getting greedy. It has everything to do with accident frequency sneaking up, costs of claims going through the roof, and insurance in our vertical has been priced way too low for way too long.”
Indeed, truck-involved crashes in the U.S. are going in the wrong direction – up – and settlements are going up with them. Bill Moretti, director of business development with truck insurance broker Tredd, told me the average repair cost for a Class 8 truck was $12,000 in 2017, and climbed to $18,000 the very next year. That’s 50%, folks. In one year.
Insurers are facing an extremely difficult environment, with ever-increasing risks, and while it’s easy to cast them as the bad guys, they’re in business to make a profit – just like you are. As capacity exits the segment, premiums are bound to go up, even for good carriers. For carriers with a spotty record of compliance, with an egregious claims history, and who are unable or unwilling to invest in collision mitigation technologies or driver training, insurance may soon become impossible to obtain.
It’s already happening. Anecdotally, I’ve heard through brokers of fleets that have gone out of business because of their inability to secure fleet insurance renewal. There are also fewer start-ups because in many cases, newly issued CVORs do not represent an attractive risk profile to insurers.
Let’s face it, those trucking insurance companies that remain in the space are now holding all the cards. You will likely have to accept rising premiums, more restrictive eligibility, and greater scrutiny of your hiring and safety programs. But is that a bad thing? With every crisis, there are winners and losers. The fleets who have exceptional safety records, who diligently pre-screen and train new hires, who communicate effectively with their insurers and work with them to understand and reduce their risk profiles, will be the winners.
Maybe that’s why Seymour isn’t screaming bloody murder about his premiums and throwing the insurance industry under the truck.
James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies