Tips on finding good commercial trucking, cargo and trailer interchange insurance

By Ed Sneineh, CLU, ChFC

Every one / company who owns a commercial truck will have to have a commercial trucking insurance coverage for it before taking the truck to the road. Such expenses can cause an impact on a person's or company's financial status. In the Chicago metro area, a primary liability trucking policy with cargo and interchange coverage may average about $8,000 per year. However, a person can opt to look for a insurance company that will not charge them a lot. It is possible for someone to find a cheap trucking company, but one needs to understand that cheaper rates do not necessarily mean good services.

A commercial truck driver works under more strict rules and laws, and has obligations that outnumber that of a normal driver. They are usually transporting freight, which can be quite a liability, plus other duties that force them to drive keenly. It is every truck drivers nightmare to cause an accident without having the necessary insurance. The impact of such a situation will negatively impact their career, as well as cause harm to public.

One of the things a person should do when looking for good insurance is to shop. It is not wise to try and find an agent without having the necessary information about the service you are looking for. The information will guide someone on what type of package to settle for. Remember that the trucking insurance industry is always changing, lots of companies come to the market, and lots of them leave, constantly.  Therefore, you will almost always find a better deal, with new comers that want to try a piece of the lucrative trucking insurance premiums. It is safe to know the average costs of insurance as well as the details of the package. The only way to come about such information is by carrying out thorough research beforehand.

There are a number of things that need to be looked at before shopping for a good insurance company.  You need first to decide what kind of insurance coverage you need. Coverages relevant to most trucking policies may include:

1. Primary Liability Insurance. Primary liability for most truckers ranges from $750,000 to $1,000,000 for bodily injury and property damages. Truckers who cross state borders are mandated by the FHWA (Federal Highway Administration) to carry limits based on the kind of materials hauled. For examples, certain HAZMAT truckers or truckers that haul hazardous materials are required to carry at least $1 million in auto liability.
2. Cargo Coverage: Like primary auto liability, certain truckers that require state and federal filings are required by law to maintain certain amounts of cargo (coverage of the merchandise that is being hauled.) Most truckers carry between $100,000 to $250,000 although the limits may be significantly less (ie $15,000).
3. Trailer Interchange insurance. Truckers may have to purchase physical damage coverage on the trailer that they haul. The limit may cover trailers that belong to others while it is in use by the insured trucker, or the trailer that is owned by the insured trucker while it is in use by other truckers.
4, Physical Damage on Truck/ Own Trailer. This is collision and comprehensive on own truck/tractor or trailer.
5. General Liability: Provides Commercial General Liability for the business itself, not the trucks.
6. Workers Compensation. Covers employees/ drivers for medical payment & disability income for any work related injury or disease.
7. Occupational Accidents. Provides limited medical payment and limited disability income benefits for any work related injuries.
8. Umbrella Coverage. Provides extra liability coverage above and beyond the underlining  General Liability, Auto Liability and Workers Compensation.
9. Hired and Non-owned Auto: Provides coverage for auto hired by the insured, or autos that are not owned by the insured when they are used in connection with the Insured's operations (not easy to get for a small commercial trucking business.)
10. Towing and Rental: Towing provides  coverage for towing the disabled truck when involved in a covered loss (ie accident, theft, etc.) Rental coverage provides for limited payment to rent similar truck in the event the insured truck is disabled because of a covered loss.

When all the important information has been covered, it is now easier to find the right company/ agent. The next step will be to look at the insurance quotes in the market. This can easily be done via the Internet by visiting various websites that offer the service. There are so many trucking insurance companies who offer their services online, looking through the options will help a person come up with a list of insurers they can work with.

Fill out the forms of potential insurers and they are bound to send a quote. In the long run, a person gets so many quotations from several companies/ brokers. This makes it easy for someone to choose the best alternative for them. However, there are other factors that will influence the overall decision.

Once a person has all the quotes they need, they can conduct a thorough review on each one of them. Do not decide on a quote just because their rates are low, the best quote to choose is one that offers the best coverage that you need for money paid. There is always a reason why an agent offers cheaper quotes than the others, find out why and decide whether you still want to work with them. Compare quotes that have similar charges in relation to the covers offered. The following are the factors that affect the premium:

1. Garaging Address: Some companies look at the ZIP Code to price your policy, while other companies may look at the County. Remember always to make a distinction between your mailing address and the garaging address. This is a significant issue here in Chicago, where the ZIP codes of the City is 606xx. Truckers who live in the city and garage their trucks in a suburban area may end up being over charged by companies that use the ZIP codes for rating (Progressive Insurance is an example of these companies.)

2. Credit of Applicant. Some trucking companies are credit driven. Truck applicants with better credit have better prices.  Example: Progressive Insurance.

3. CDL Experience/ Operator Age: While many companies will not even consider you if you have less than 2 years of CDL experience (Example: Canal Insurance) other companies will penalize you for having less experience, or if your MVR has blemishes. While most companies will not insure anyone under age 21, there is normally a surcharge for drivers under age 25.

4. Prior Insurance: Many companies will give you discounts if you show proof of prior insurance, without any lapse. Example: Progressive Insurance.

5. Limits of insurance on your primary liability, cargo and trailer interchange. The more coverage you ask for the more money you have to pay.

6. Radius of Operations: There are no rules here. Some companies prefer short range (up to 300 miles) truckers while other will penalize local truckers (especially if the trucking business is situated in a large metropolitan area like Chicago or New York.) Progressive Insurance, for instance, does not allow over 500 miles for radius of operations, but may allow it on restricted basis. Other companies (such as Canal) may give much better rate for longer range operations.

7. Merchandise Hauled. Certain merchandise (electronics, expensive clothes) are more expensive to insure that, for example paper products, or regular household products. Refrigerated products are also more expensive to insure than plastic products.

In the event that this is the first time a truck is being insured, it is important to include riders in the cover. This option can be offered at a higher charge than the normal cover. It is usually cheaper to pay the insurance company annually, this is because there are certain discounts offered when the payment is made in bulk. This option is not offered by all the agents, so you need to ask about it before committing to a certain commercial trucking insurance. ###
Visit our website if you need a comprehensive set of commercial trucking, cargo and interchange insurance.
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