Consider unique needs when tackling truck insurance claims

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The leading causes of truck insurance claims can sound familiar from one operation to the next, but fleets still need to focus on their unique needs when establishing the priorities to bring such losses under control.

Sources of claims that occur most frequently are often tackled first, with the mindset that frequency drives severity. But there are times it can still make sense to focus on less-frequent issues that are more severe when they occur, says Dave Nawton, Northbridge Insurance’s western region manager – risk services, transportation and logistics.

“There’s a lot of complexity to claims,” he says. “There’s a lot of things that go beyond just ranking.”

Dave Nawton, Northbridge Insurance
Dave Nawton (Photo: Northbridge Insurance)

Over the last decade, for example, Northbridge has seen more rollovers and fewer sideswipes. Other claims including rear-end collisions, backing into vehicles or property, animal strikes, strikes by other vehicles, left and right intersection turns, and cargo damage are as valid and relevant today as they were 10 years ago.

“But with any Top 10 list, the order of the list can vary depending on if looked at nationally, or regionally, or by insurer or even company,” Nawton says.

Collision exposure

The types and frequency of collisions can also vary depending on where trucks go and what they haul.

“For example, if you have an LTL fleet that’s running predominantly in urban areas, you’re going to see a lot more things like sideswipes, rear-end collisions. You’re going to see a lot more intersection collisions, left or right turns, a lot more potential to have things that are parked on the side of the road,” he explains.

“If you have a truckload carrier, and it’s in an urban area, they may be only doing one-stop, but they’re going to have the same type of crashes. It’s just [that] odds are worse for an LTL carrier because they’re just doing more in those types of environments.”

Against the backdrop of a driver shortage, the most experienced drivers may also be more selective about the types of jobs they want to do. Those who opt for medium and longer runs would not be dealing with the city every day. That dynamic will affect results in its own way.

Regional differences

Then there are regional differences to consider.

Collisions involving rollovers, jackknifes, or loss of control can be more common in the mountains. But “visibility-type” crashes such as backing into parked cars, or clipping and touching buildings that have low awnings and power lines, may be more common in busy urban areas, Nawton adds.

Regional variances can even be seen in cargo theft. Such claims have been on the rise in central Canada and Vancouver, while companies hauling high-value goods like electronics can be targeted more than others, he says.

To compound matters, carriers who sign punitive master shipping agreements and contracts can face higher costs when cargo-related claims occur. Such contracts can stipulate carriers will pay a full retail value if anything happens to the cargo, while also preventing the ability to salvage goods.

“So as an insurer, we’ve got this carrier that signed a contract, and cargo laws are set by the province. And now we’re in this really awful spot,” Nawton says, noting that such contracts can see potential claims increase tenfold.

Enviornmental claims

Environmental-related claims have seen rising costs of their own.

“I compared claims from 10 years ago and found that claims with environmental considerations that would have cost, let’s say about $75,000, could now cost as much as $500,000,” Nawton says.

That places a greater emphasis on the importance of spill kits and training to ensure drivers know how to use them.

“We saw it [claim] go from a very inexpensive claim to a very, very expensive one. All because of the lack of a $150 spill kit,” he says.

Risks like these certainly need to be addressed. But other risks can’t be ignored, either.

Says Nawton: “Carriers need to work towards zero incidents, zero losses.”

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Krystyna Shchedrina is a reporter for Today's Trucking. She is a recent honors graduate of the journalism bachelor program at Humber College. Reach Krystyna at:

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