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Let’s talk insurance: Amazing but true trucking claims

As a trucking insurance company, we see all types of claims-from minor fender benders to mushroom cloud explosions ripping up the Trans-Canada highway. People often ask us about some of the strangest claims we've seen. Here are just a few.


As a trucking insurance company, we see all types of claims-from minor fender benders to mushroom cloud explosions ripping up the Trans-Canada highway. People often ask us about some of the strangest claims we’ve seen. Here are just a few.

A not-so-perfect triple play

A Canadian trucker was hauling lumber through Boston when another driver cut him off. The truck jackknifed, sending the lumber airborne and striking a support column of the Charles River Bridge-a major traffic artery connecting downtown Boston with other parts of the city, most notably, Logan International Airport.The impact buckled the bridge, causing it to drop approximately eighteen inches. The bridge was shut down immediately.

Unfortunately, the lumber didn’t stop at the support column. After the initial impact, the lumber tumbled into the Charles River, a busy passageway for water taxis ferrying passengers to and from the airport.

As a result, the Charles River was also shut down. Fortunately, the resulting repairs and cleanup took only a few days, but over that time it seriously hampered Boston’s highway, water and air transportation systems. Talk about a triple play!

The Trans-Canada crater

A driver was hauling explosives on the Trans-Canada Highway in Ontario when a second truck pulled out onto the road in front of the explosives hauler.

As the second truck started to accelerate, it began to emit thick exhaust fumes. Unfortunately, the truck hauling explosives had its air conditioner on, drawing outside air into the cab.

Soon, the driver’s eyes were watering and his throat was closing, causing him to cough and sneeze violently. He tried desperately to find a safe place to stop, all the while feeling dizzy and fighting to maintain his focus. His thoughts could not have been far from the 25,000 pounds of dynamite immediately behind him. It might have been the last thing he thought about before he blacked out. With the driver now unconscious, the rig slammed into a giant rock face. The impact instantly ignited a fire in the cab.

Two approaching truckers managed to pry the passenger door open and rescue the unconscious driver-just in time. Fire then ignited the explosives, blasting a crater 100 feet long and 15 feet deep-right in the middle of the Trans-Canada Highway. Witnesses described a mushroom cloud and recorded hearing the explosion from 10 kms away. One report stated that the explosion even shook a person, who had been using a roadside porta-potty, right off his seat.

Steer clear of motorcycles doing 100 mph in Michigan

A Canadian rig was traveling down a Michigan highway at the posted speed limit of 55 mph, when it was suddenly rear-ended by a motorcyclist travelling at over 100 mph. The motorcycle was, of course, at fault. However, the motorcyclist carried no Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. So, the trucking company was stuck with the entire cost of the US$250,000 claim.

Why, you ask? Motorcyclists in Michigan typically have another vehicle (like their personal car) insured with PIP coverage that would also apply to the motorcycle in this type of loss. However, this motorcyclist didn’t own a car, and therefore didn’t have PIP coverage. Accidents in Michigan involving motorcycles with no PIP coverage require the other party’s insurance company to cover all resulting damages – regardless of who’s at fault.

Not just another tall fish tale

After hauling a load of fresh fish from Quebec to Chicago, a driver sought the nearest truck wash to get rid of the smell in his trailer.

Remembering the advice of a fellow trucker who had a similar problem, the driver lit two flares, threw them inside the trailer, closed the doors and went for lunch. However, he didn’t remember the other trucker had done this while parked in a field with the trailer doors open.

During lunch, the driver heard a thunderous explosion and ran outside to see what had happened. The lit flares reacted with the chemical composition of the fish odour in the oxygen-less environment of the trailer, causing an explosion. The blast not only destroyed the truck completely, but also the truck wash where it was parked. The mess resulted in a US$1 million claim against the trucker, not to mention one very angry truck stop owner!

Markel president and CEO Mark Ram is presenting “The Straight Facts on Trucking Insurance Pricing” – a series of free seminars. Truckers can attend on any of the following dates to learn how to control their insurance premiums.

ETOBICOKE, Ont., Wed., Jan. 26, 4-6 p.m., Doubletree International Plaza Hotel, Toronto Airport, 655 Dixon Road

INGERSOLL, Ont., Mon., Feb. 7, 4-6 p.m., Elmhurst Inn, 415 Harris Street

CALGARY, Alta., Wed., Feb. 9, 4-6 p.m., Best Western Hospitality Inn, 135 Southland Drive S.E.

– Mark J. Ram is president and CEO of Markel. Please send your questions and commentary about this column to letstalk@markel.ca.


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