More Best Insurance Practices for Better Premiums












More Best Insurance Practices in Our continuing Series

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #30

Use qualified third parties for your required annual equipment inspections

Both OSHA (heavy lifting equipment) and the U.S. DOT (on-road vehicles) have specific regulatory requirements for their respective annual equipment inspections.

In some smaller operations, owners sometimes “self-certify” their annual inspections, primarily as a cost savings. If they are qualified inspectors, this is their option.

Consequently, however, some of these required inspections are not always done on a timely basis, or even done at all.

Why use third-party inspectors (TPIs)?

Some advantages of TPIs include:

  • Better documentation of the inspection
  • Enforcement of required repairs and faults that might be deferred
  • Better regulatory compliance
  • “Another set of eyeballs”
  • Completion on a timely basis
  • No question of the quality of the inspection

Utilizing third-party inspectors for annual inspections, I believe, is an investment that can help lower insurance premiums and avoid further correspondence from insurance underwriters.

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #31

Set up an Inspection Safety Lane

An inspection safety lane can be set up to inspect any rolling stock as it is leaving or returning to your yard.

An inspection safety lane can be used for a quick walk-around, checking tires, lights, and overall condition, or go more in depth, as in a complete pre-trip inspection.

Bonus Tip:

Sometimes an injured employee needs to return to work doing some light-duty tasks.

Helping an injured employee off of workers’ compensation by performing the role of Safety Lane Inspector can be mutually beneficial for all parties, directly affecting insurance premiums.

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #32

Adopt the ‘Inspect to Fail’ Inspection Standard

Some of the most frequent questions asked by drivers include:

  • When does the condition of the vehicle (or load) merit not driving any further due to major or serious faults?
  • When may a vehicle be driven to a repair facility?
  • When is a vehicle roadworthy even though it may harbor minor faults?

Crane operators can have the same questions in their operations.

Solution: Adopt the ‘Inspect to Fail’ Inspection Standard

‘Inspect to fail’ is a best practice, based on the concept that most, if not all, equipment failures and equipment-related safety issues are preventable with frequent thorough inspections and superior preventative maintenance.

‘Inspect to fail’ means, if a part, component or system on a vehicle (or the load or driver) does not meet, or fails to meet any standard of safety, the fault will be corrected before operations commence.

The equipment is, literally, ‘inspected to fail.’

Drivers/operators are held accountable for catching and acting on *all equipment and safety defects.

*Note: Corrective action will depend on the severity of the fault(s), but safety is always non-negotiable.

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #33

Document all inspections

Drivers, crane, hoisting, forklift, and other equipment operators need to complete equipment inspections before use, under both OSHA and DOT Regulations.

These dally inspections should be documented either in writing or electronically.

Why document inspections?

  • It’s required by state and federal law, with few exceptions.
  • “If it’s not in writing, it’s not been done.”
  • It’s a proven best practice

Professional Level:

  • Train your drivers and operators to always note one or two things in the REMARKS section, that they did during the inspection (check oil, tire pressure, etc.)


And always be sure to “Inspect before you check” the form.

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #34

Teach your drivers the Smith System® of Collision Avoidance

What’s the insurance issue?

  • Analytical data insights from firms as Omnitracs suggest some drivers could have taken evasive action to have avoided a major to severe collision but did not.

An Omnitracs’ Accident Severity Model data analysis (2015) has found in some of the most severe collisions* that drivers:

  • Took zero evasive action
  • Could have seen the point of impact 6-7 seconds prior to impact (if awake), and
  • Made no attempt to minimize damage at the point of impact (braked or steered away).

(*Roll-Over, Run-off Road, Head-on, Jack-knife, Side-swipe, Rear-end)

What can be done?

Use The Smith System® of collision avoidance. The idea for Harold L. Smith’s copyrighted system for safe driving came to him in the Navy during WWII.

Smith read a notice on a board in Guam pointing out how many servicemen were dying in car collisions. After the war, Smith researched vehicle collisions and concluded the majority of collisions were caused by “a lack of vision.”

  • The foundation of The Smith System® are The Smith5Keys®
  • The key to safe driving is in managing time and space. More space gives you more time, and more time gives you more space, and more options. This is a fundamental rule of safe driving, no matter your age or level of experience.

The Smith5Keys ®  are designed to provide drivers with the knowledge and skills to create three important things while driving:

  • Space to maneuver their vehicle away from conflict
  • Visibility to detect danger and the potential for conflict with another vehicle or fixed object early
  • Time to react to volatile and complex driving environments”

What are Smith Systems’ ® five keys ?

  • Key 1. Aim High In Steering®
  • As pilots are similarly taught to use their vision to mentally stay ahead of their aircraft, both anticipating and responding to potential obstacles in their flight path, drivers should, “look ahead to where you will be at least 15 seconds into your future.”
  • “A 15-second eye-lead time provides advanced warning and gives you an additional margin of safety.”

Key 2. Get The Big Picture®

  • Again, like pilot training, this rule is about continually maintaining, complete situational awareness when driving.
  • Drivers are taught to not only look far ahead, but to both sides, and to “Check at least one of your mirrors every 5 to 8 seconds.”

Key 3. Keep Your Eyes Moving®

  • While behind the wheel, the best drivers learn not to fixate on a certain point, and to visually focus where needed.
  • “Keep your eyes moving every 2 seconds.”
  • Visually scanning all intersections and rail-grade crossings
  • Looking for errant drivers

Key 4. Leave Yourself An Out®

  • Leaving an out, means always having a place to go, when there is no other place to go.
  • Manage the space all around the vehicle, leaving a safety cushion, to avoid entanglements with others

Key 5. Make Sure They See You®

  • Always be visible to other drivers
  • Lights are kept clean and on for safety
  • Maintain eye contact with other drivers

In Summary

Distracted driving is on the rise. More people than ever are texting, phoning or driving inattentively. There are more drivers taking meds or combinations of meds that could affect their driving. States are issuing operator licenses to undocumented drivers. There are simply more drivers out there than before and the need for advanced driving skills is greater than ever.

Professional drivers need documented collision-avoidance training to help keep our insurance premiums from rising faster.■

5 More Insurance Best Practices to Help Stabilize Your Premiums

Preventing “Nuclear Verdicts”

This week I attended Idelic’s Preventing “Nuclear Verdicts” webinar. Idelic is a driver management platform.

I learned almost any sized trucking company can be involved in a large claim. The possibility of any realistic tort reform in the near future is uncertain. Until that happens, multi-million dollar verdicts, the so-called Nuclear Verdicts, will continue to plague anyone with their own trucks on the road.

What is certain is that the larger trucking companies (who mostly self-insure), would like to raise the $750,000 insurance requirement for all companies. This helps the larger motor carriers because raising the primary insurance means fewer of the large losses would be shifted to “excess” coverage (covering losses over the $750,000 threshold).

Like most political solutions, this one will probably end up as some sort of compromise, resulting in, sooner or later, higher coverage requirements and higher costs. How high is anyone’s guess.

While that’s all getting sorted out, there are things you can do to stabilize your insurance premiums.

One crucial response is to adopt industry best practices—proven techniques to streamline and improve your business.

To succeed in this business, as one business guru said, you don’t need a bigger checkbook, you need a bigger idea book. Not every idea will work because every business is both similar and very different to any other business.

You don’t need a bigger checkbook, you need a bigger idea book.

But if even one in five ideas are productive, then that’s a 20% advantage you have given yourself. Best of all, you can decide whenever you want to implement the new initiative. Proceed at your own pace.

Without further adieu, here are the next five ideas.

5 More Insurance Best Practices

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #25

Relocate to another state with lower rates.

Premiums can vary by state for like or similar operations. While moving seems drastic, and no agent is ever going to make this recommendation, some owners have told me high insurance rates have prompted a physical move of their business to another jurisdiction. Some states, like Florida, are notorious for higher commercial auto insurance premiums, while others, like—surprise, surprise, California—have better competitive rates due to a greater volume of business.

Some fleets have found they can serve their customers better by establishing a beachhead in another state and gradually shifting over their operations.

This can be a real option if you are located near the state border and such a move would not be particularly disruptive to the business, or if you have a dedicated lane ending in a state with lower-premiums.

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #26

Be 100% transparent in your dealings with your insurance partners.

There is ofttimes a fear amongst some organizations that, if they are asked an insurance question, the response always needs to be tailored in a certain way or else something negative will result (higher premiums, increased scrutiny, and the like).

An example is the owner of a new startup, who declares affirmatively in a post-bind safety review, that they have met or exceeded every safety and regulatory standard, each employee is stringently vetted and thoroughly trained, and all equipment is daily inspected and frequently maintained.

Contrast that with the owner with 10, 20 or 40 years in business who has perhaps gone through dozens of reviews. In my experience, I hear fairly candid answers and get honest pushback. “No, we don’t have any training videos. Can’t afford them.”

Who is more believable?

Secondly, some insurance questions might not always apply to your operations. It’s possible the electronic form won’t permit any further progress unless the question is answered.

Thirdly, if you really fall short somewhere, all the insurance company expects, if it’s really something serious, is to correct it in due time. That’s all. No worries.

Top companies do their part and make transparency their cornerstone for better insurance quotes and exceptional levels of service.

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #27

Be aware of all of your risks (exposures) and have a risk management program in place for those risks . . . before insuring them.

Often a business evolves as new opportunities present themselves. For example, a taxi-crane company starts renting telehandlers to contractors (but perhaps doesn’t inform the insurance company). Or a dry van operation adds open deck trailers, then drop deck or even RGN trailers to do heavy haul. In these instances, the risks have increased for both the business and the insurance company.

Agents are not always keen on the particular subtleties of equipment, and the resulting risks/exposures from its operation. In addition, not all agents necessarily have had training in risk management for your particular line of work.

What to do?

• Start by knowing your risks and what needs to be done to address each of them on an ongoing basis. For at least the first six months, adding different types or classes of new or unfamiliar equipment always represents additional risk for your company and its risk partners.

• Be sure to have a comprehensive risk management program or plan in place to manage your risks and exposures, and to lessen your company’s exposure to risk. Take baby steps, before leaping any tall buildings.

Once the risks have been nailed down and a plan is in place to manage each risk, insurance can take over from there, bearing any of the risks which you cannot sustain.

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #28

Ensure vehicles and equipment are secured 100% of the time when they are parked or garaged or not in use.

Did you know one-third of stolen vehicles had the key or fob left inside?

Do you permit drivers to garage them at or near their homes?

Did you know nearly 40 percent of all cargo thefts occurred in parking lots or garages? (2017 FBI Report) Do your trailers have an anti-theft device, if dropped outside of a secure yard?

Does your yard have surveillance cameras including video and OCR or LPR?

Are drivers instructed where to park or never park: i.e., center turn lanes, ends of rows or congested areas in truck stops, blocking lanes, etc.?

Have you invested in adequate anti-theft and tracking devices?

Do you have a second tracking device hidden in the vehicle, including any trailers?

Do you have a parking/garaging policy guiding drivers?

These are a few of the best practices your insurance partner would like to know more about.

In summary:
• Give careful thought and consideration as to where vehicles are, 100% of the time they are parked, positioned, or garaged.
• Invest in anti-theft equipment and tracking devices.
• Security needs to be embedded in your safety culture.

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #29

Have an aggressive equipment replacement policy.

While some business owners can make valid arguments for keeping older equipment on their books, based on minimal usage and superior maintenance, the fact is, there are some serious trade offs to consider. No matter the type of equipment, be it for heavy-lifting or heavy hauling, newer models come with an array of safety devices.

• In many instances, older equipment cannot be successfully upgraded or retrofitted with this new safety technology.
• Even highly-maintained, older equipment can be prone to breakdowns and faults, and replacement parts can be scarce, directly affecting the bottom line.
• While there are always rare exceptions, valid business reasons to keep equipment on the books after 30 years or more, are as rare.

If you need to deploy older equipment:
• Do you have a rigorous inspection and PM program?
• Are all inspections & repairs fully documented?
• Is there a written service plan for each unit?
• Are any third-parties involved in the service process?
• When stored, is the equipment protected from the elements?

Having a great maintenance program is helpful. Having a great and fully documented maintenance program is always better. ■

Thank you for reading this.


5 Commercial Insurance Best Practices to Help Lower Your Premiums

What is the best kept business secret in America?

Over the years I’ve picked up nuggets of business insights. Some like the use of business ratios were introduced formally in school, some informally from media, interviews, or other sources.

When I was young, Shell oil hit struck oil on the family farm (Taratuta 34A) in the north-east corner of what is known in geologic terms as the Michigan Basin. We were going to be rich!

Unfortunately, after several drilling attempts, due to high gas pressures and the likelihood of a blowout, the well was sealed off, capped, and cemented, and life became ordinary again. But it was a nice dream while it lasted.

One thing I did learn, at that time from a wildcatter, was that more money went into the ground searching for oil, then came out of the ground, in the form of profits. Yes, back in the day, the oil business could be quite speculative.

I later heard this same concept from a stockbroker: investors can easily put more money into stocks then they ever take out—not a good strategy to build wealth. This same theme would emerge, again and again. Other examples run the span from the airline to biotech industries.

For example, in 2007 Warren Buffett mentioned in one of his famous letters to stockholders, that the airline industry, as a whole, is unprofitable, saying, “if a farsighted capitalist had been present at Kitty Hawk, he would have done his successors a huge favor by shooting Orville down.” He then later forgot his own foresight, buying billions of dollars airline stocks in 2016, only to quickly dump all of them at the onset of the Covid pandemic.

The fact that many businesses are marginal and struggle to break even is no secret. Most famers, for example, need to work full time jobs outside of the farm. The book publishing industry gambles on dozens of new authors, before one might hit the bestseller list.

The real secret, the best kept business secret in America, I believe, is that profitable businesses strive to incorporate proven best practices in their operations. 

Are there best practices for commercial business insurance? From my experience, I would say, yes, there are. There are proven ways that will help lower or at least stabilize the cash outlays for your insurance, without sacrificing coverage. And many don’t take a lot of time or effort to implement.

The cost of insurance is not fixed. They are things you can do to make the cost go up. And there are things you can do to lower or stabilize the cost. Here are five more commercial insurance best practices, in our continuing series.

5 Commercial Insurance Best Practices to Help Lower Premiums

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #20

Retain legal counsel who can provide you with proactive legal services.

What are proactive legal services?

If you own an asset like a building, machine, or vehicle, you likely do your fair share of preventative maintenance (PM). PMs are seen as a good investment, not an expense.

Likewise, proactive legal services are preventive, providing legal guidance to avoid potential legal issues from happening, or having plans in place to mitigate conflict, if such issues arise.

Proactive legal services can help with:
• Regulatory issues
• Reviews of contracts
• Risk reduction

For example, some insurance companies may have “Lawsuit Limitations” in the policy (in a provision labeled “Suit Against Us”) of one year from the time of the event in question, while a claim is being adjusted. Proactive legal counsel could help preserve your rights before the deadline expires.

The end goal of proactive legal services is to avoid potential conflicts and costly litigation. Ask your legal counsel if they can provide you with proactive legal services or recommend someone who does.

Disclaimer: This is not legal advice, only insurance-savings information. Seek any legal advice from qualified legal counsel.

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #21

Firm up your insurance firmographics.

What in the heck are firmographics?

Yes—firmographics is a real word. Firmographics describe businesses and organizations like demographics describe people. Firmographics help insurance underwriters and actuaries to stratify risk by grouping it together, resulting in competitive quotes.

‘Firm up your insurance firmographics’ means to verify the information your insurance company has is correct.

For example, some businesses have several lines, which can fall under different industry codes. Fact: According to Verisk, a firmographics provider, “52 percent of high-level industry codes (defined by 2-digit NAICS) are typically inaccurate in an insurer’s book.” (July 2020 ISO survey)

Bad codes can result in under or over-charges of premiums. If you are undercharged, upon discovery, insurance companies can go back several years later and recoup the money. Overcharges directly affect your bottom line.

  • Be sure to check how your organization is coded. Update the information, if necessary.
  • Carefully go over any confirmation paperwork. Sometimes property, equipment, or vehicles can be listed on the policy for years after having been taken out of service.
  • Look at your list of drivers. Is it up to date and current?
  • Does your website or Facebook page reflect current operations? Insurance companies get information from many different sources. Update them, if necessary.

Some previous tips to ensure accurate insurance information include: (#4) Verify loss runs every six months, (5) Read the policy/dec sheet, and (12) Make reasonable disclosure to all insurance inquiries.

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #22

Hire drivers based on their driving experience.

According to a recent study driving experience is more important than a driver’s age when considering risk. Over 9,000 drivers were studied to determine how age and experience affect driving safety and performance.

The study noted, inexperienced drivers (with one year or less experience) have higher “crash rates, crash involvement, and moving violations, regardless of age.” And inexperienced over age 55, in fact, have even higher crash rates and greater “odds of being involved in a crash than their younger, inexperienced counterparts.”

The study recommended companies have a training strategy, mentor inexperienced drivers, and use technology as Lytx DriveCam system to coach and train drivers.

Many insurance companies require one or more years of driving experience. Some (for example, Protective) require proof of attending a CDL school, with at least 24 hours of in-cab training.

Underwriters have known this for years: experience matters, and drivers with at least one year of verifiable driving experience at hire can help reduce your premiums.

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #23

Choose a real human over a bot when interacting with insurance companies.

Consulting firms are currently pushing the concept to insurance companies that, ideally, 50% of their business should be totally automated. This is sold as another business best practice.

Part and parcel to insurance automation and digitization is the deployment of so-called digital employees, electronic avatars, or ‘bots,’ which are apps using conversational artificial intelligence (AI) or natural language processing. The apps or bots can gather information and perform certain tasks, saving labor costs.

Can a bot be deposed in court? What can a bot recall under cross-examination? And in this age of rolling brownouts and blackouts, and failed backups, what happens if critical information is lost or insurance policies cancelled? By then, likely the consultants will be long gone. Who will be left holding the bag?

For critical insurance information and tasks, make it your policy to deal primarily with humans as much as practically possible. This can help in keeping misunderstandings from happening and your insurance premiums from rising.

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #24

Have a driver pet policy.

Pets in a cab are seen by plaintiff attorneys as a possible driver distraction in a post-crash investigation, according to transportation counsel and legal expert Cassandra “Mad” Gaines, Esq.

This suggestion doesn’t mean pets in truck cabs should be outright banned, according to Gaines. Drivers keep pets as companions, sometimes as early-warning systems at night when parked in peripheral or unlit locations. In most cases, the benefits outweigh the risks.

Gaines advises a driver’s pet policy should:

  • Favor smaller pets over larger pets.
  • Include a barrier to the driver cockpit area so the pet cannot become a driver distraction when the vehicle is in motion.
  • Deploy outward/inward facing cameras

Driver pets are a reality in transportation. A sensible pet policy can help keep your insurance premiums from rising. ■

Thank you for reading this. What ways have you found best to save money on your insurance?


5 More Ways to Lower Your Commercial Insurance Premiums

Why? Why? Why?

Many fleet owners have come to dread opening that email or envelope showing their upcoming commercial auto insurance premiums. Especially if they have not had any major claims, have good equipment and drivers, low turnover and strong financials.

Why are rates so high? Why do premiums keep rising? Why is this happening to me?

Bottom line: rate increases almost always are due to increased insurance risk. The parameters of insurance risk vary by region, kind of operations, and predictability, among others.

If most companies are average, then, on average, everyone would expect about an average year-to-year premium increase of about five per cent. This would seem reasonable, practical, and easily affordable.

The world, however, is cyclical in nature, and so is the world of insurance. Insurance is affected by economic cycles, weather patterns, regional trends, technology, and so on. All of these factors will have some effect, sometimes large, sometimes small, on premiums.

The key thing, then, to keep insurance premiums stable or from rising to an unreasonable level, is to control those things you have direct control over.

I have worked on the loss-control side with many operations in a number of industries and have found it is always helpful to differentiate yourself. Differentiation means doing the few extra things which will improve your risk profile and make your organization stand out from the others.

In some cases, it means doing a few more things that you probably should be doing anyway. In other cases, it might mean adopting an new attitude or mindset, taking a fresh look at things with an eye to improvement.

I grew up in trucking. I’ve owned trucks. Looking back, I can say this with certitude: there were some things we did well, there were some things we did the hard way—not from a lack of trying, but from simply not knowing what we didn’t know.

So we continue on with our series of proven ways to level up your insurance game.

Five More Insurance Saving Tips

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #15

Ask your agent if you can get a discount for being a member of a business, professional, or trade association.

If you operate speciality equipment like cranes, concrete pumpers, oversized-load hauling equipment, and the like, that requires adhering to standards beyond the norm (usually requiring special riders or endorsements to your policy), chances are the insurance company may offer a membership discount, if you join the representative association for your industry.

Sometimes this question will be in the insurance application.

Bonus Tip 1: Pay attention to all of the questions on the insurance application. The insurance underwriters do. The questions will tell you what things are important. No questions are there to fill up space. And be accurate in your responses. Never simply turn in an old application.

Bonus Tip 2: And always ask your agent for a list of available or perhaps new discounts. The insurance industry is changing and is in the midst of a huge turnover in staffing, combined with digitization of business processes. Don’t let any possible discounts fall through the cracks because of this change.

As successful fitness entrepreneur Jennifer Cohen says: “Be bold. You need to ask for what you want. Period.”

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #16

Move up the insurance food chain: Work with a broker instead of an agent

If it’s time to do some serious cost-containment on your commercial insurance, and you are looking to change agents (or your agent has moved on, retired, etc.), consider working with a broker, not another agent.

Why work with a broker?

One primary difference is that the agent works for the insurance company, while the broker works directly for you. The broker uses their expertise and experience to get you the best possible rates. The broker’s recommendations are unbiased and favor the buyer, the insured, not the insurance company, Brokers can provide you with best value in insurance coverage.

Insurance brokers represent multiple insurance companies. The broker cannot “bind” a policy but will connect you with an insurer or insurance agent to complete the process. And likely a better rate.

You can ask your agent if this would be helpful, or contact your insurance company directly for a list of brokers they deal with.

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #17

Here’s a big ‘don’t’ when getting an insurance quote: Never ask more than one agent or broker for a quote.

(The only exception is having another agent/broker for highly specialized insurance your regular agent/broker cannot provide. But this same rule always applies . . .)

Why is that?

Attempting to utilize several agents at a time, or, if get your insurance through a broker, several brokers at a time, is not at all helpful in getting a good, solid quote. Most agents and brokers pride themselves on their relationships with customers. They will do everything in their power to make sure you get their best possible quote. Attempting to play one against another is a zero-sum game that will strain the relationship, and indeed can work against you in the long run.

It’s best to always follow the time-honored tradition in insurance of having only one agent or one broker at a time. A good agent or broker is worth their weight in gold and an asset to your organization.

As Napoléon Bonaparte said, “If you issue an order, then a reorder, you will end up with disorder.” This same observation applies when procuring insurance. Be strategic. Stay in the long game.

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #18

Never finance your insurance policy directly though the insurance company.

Why is that?

Here are some good and valid reasons to arrange outside financing for commercial insurance:

  1. Outside financing will generally cost you less, saving money.
  2. If a payment is late, you can be cancelled. I’ve seen some companies in Excess & Surplus lines (E&S) add on a 25% penalty for early policy cancellations. (Read all the paperwork!)
  3. If you do get cancelled, this can make it harder (more expensive) and more difficult to find insurance. Every insurance company asks if you have been cancelled. It’s a red flag!
  4. If you do get cancelled for nonpayment, the insurance company will very likely not continue the policy.
  5. If you drop vehicles due to a change in operations, you might be paying the finance company for months before everything gets all sorted out. This can really impact your cash flow.
  6. Breakdowns, loss of a good customer, and other factors can push any company into a hard place, making the monthly commitment to the insurance finance company very difficult.

If at all possible, do your best to keep insurance and the financing of the insurance separate and apart from each other. It will save money and could even save the business . . .

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #19

Do not haul cannabis. Period. Even if it is considered state “legal”

Now, why would that be?

We’re talking about the insurance angle here. Most commercial insurance policies clearly state they will NOT underwrite any illegal activities. A policy is simply a contract.

The sale and distribution of cannabis is federally illegal in the U.S. For some, perhaps 15% of the population, cannabis is known to be an addictive substance and sales are exploding.

It’s a fact: insurance companies are finding they can walk away from cannabis-related claims due to the federal illegality of cannabis and the courts will stand behind them.

It’s perhaps best to simply avoid problems: Stay away from hauling cannabis.

See: Why Your Cannabis Contracts May Be Unenforceable Even if State Law Says Otherwise

Disclaimer: This is not legal advice, only insurance-savings information. Seek any legal advice from qualified legal counsel.

Thank you for reading this.

Five Tips for Saving on Commercial Insurance

Can one really save on commercial insurance? Is this for real?

Insurance savings are real and can be had, but like anything else worthwhile, require both time and effort. Larger companies devote departments full of risk managers to help lower their risks (and costs) of doing business.

But there are things smaller operations can do to lower their insurance premiums. These are neither extraordinary nor extraneous actions, but usually things you don’t know about, things no one has told you about, or things one learns after repeated batterings or sometimes failures.

These tips are from a series published on LinkedIn. Their purpose is to help save you money (if that’s your goal).

Please note: I am not an insurance agent. I do not sell insurance. This blog is for information purposes only. I am not an attorney. This blog is not legal advice. Please use your discretion in applying any information to your particular situation and circumstances. Results may vary. 

Today’s Five Insurance Saving Tips

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #9

Have a safety “elevator speech” for your company or organization.

An elevator speech is a brief overview of what you or your organization are about, short enough to present during an elevator ride. It is a means to introduce yourself or organization to new career and/or business connections

A safety elevator speech is talking points about what you or your organization are currently doing in the area of safety. It could include activities in the last year, current initiatives, or those planned for the near future.

Many times company representatives or owners are:
—shy or hesitant when talking about their safety program(s)
—often forget to bring up key points they would like to present

Use your brief safety elevator speech with:
■ Insurance agents, brokers, loss control inspectors or risk management representatives, Underwriters
■ Your staff, safety personnel, company superiors, and others

Memorize your safety elevator speech. It can come in handy when you least expect it.

New: Digi-Tip

This next one is a new insurance tip for our digital age. Insurance companies are streamlining operations, dropping agents, or selling directly. As such, what is missing is the human touch. Beware! In this tip I cover a potential risk you need to be aware of in filling out online electronic forms.

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #10

Use Extreme Caution When Filling Out or Using Online Insurance Forms

There is a big push by insurance companies to automate and digitize their business processes. As there is less and less face contact, insurance companies are using a new suite of tools to determine, when filling out online forms, if their customers are lying or engaging in fraud.

It’s called behavioral signaling. It’s not only what you put down, but how you do it.

Do you hover over a question before answering it? Do you cut and paste information? Is information later changed or deleted?

When filling out e-forms I recommend to first read the form, gather the required information, then fill out the form as accurately (and quickly) as possible. Then proof read it, again, and make any necessary changes.

Anything else could result in potential additional scrutiny or even a possible decline in issuing a quote.

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #11

Investigate all accidents and incidents, no matter how small.

Accident/incident investigation can identify workplace hazards and help in creating corrective action plans to prevent future occurrences. In some jurisdictions, it’s the law.

In today’s safety environment, the terms accident and incident are used interchangeably, as it is felt most accidents are preventable.

We want to investigate the small stuff because: a.) it can be an indicator or predictor of future events, and, b.) staff needs to be made aware of the importance of workplace safety.

Be sure to follow a checklist. Your insurance agent may have an investigation checklist and/or other helpful forms. A generic checklist can be found in the link below.

If a safety event happens, don’t wait. Get as much information as soon as possible. Try to determine the root cause. Then follow up with any corrective action, if appropriate.

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #12

Make a good-faith effort to answer all of your insurance company’s questions and keep them informed of any changes.

Sometimes things change quickly. Assets are added or deleted. New drivers are hired. Losses occur. The list goes on.

A policyholder (insured) has a duty and obligation to disclose any information a reasonable person should have known would have been relevant to the decision of the the insurance company (insurer) whether to accept the risk.

For example, when filling out an application, if it is known that a company driver has lost their driving privileges, but the company doesn’t inform the insurance company (or continues keeps the the driver on the road), this could be considered a failure to make a reasonable disclosure.

For serious non-disclosures, insurance companies have a provision in their policy to add on additional premiums on past or future policy years, or even cancel the policy outright.

Always make a ‘reasonable disclosure’ when providing insurance information.

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #13

Have an organizational policy which encompasses safety events from start to end.

What’s in a good company “accident policy?”

■ Staff need to be trained what to do in the event of an accident.
■ There should be accident kits in all vehicles and updated first aid kits on site or on location.
■ Staff should know what to do or not do when taking photos.
■ Annual refresher training is a must.
■ Keep a list of regulatory contacts, if any government reports are later required.
■ Some companies immediately do a legal review with their counsel, if appropriate. From time to time this possibility should be reviewed with counsel, as well as your policy.
■ Accident policies should aim to preserve life, property, and evidence.
■ When others are at fault, know what your insurance company needs to pursue a possible subrogation claim, so your insurance does not go up.

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #14

Check with your agent if you can get a “shareholder discount” on your insurance for owning any stock in the insurance company or its subsidiaries.

It could be worth your time and effort to buy a share or two.

Bonus Tip 1: It’s always a good idea to check with your agent and broker for any and all available discounts. Sometimes, in the wacky world of insurance, doing little things like this can result in huge savings over time.

Bonus Tip 2: Sometimes you can get discounts for doing things that seem counterintuitive, like adding drivers to get into a different category. For example, a key driver has some points and you can’t fire him. Adding additional drivers to your driver pool with stellar driving records might actually lower your premiums.

Thank you for reading this. What ways have you found to save money on your insurance?

More Insurance Savings Tips for 2021

Up, Up, and Away . . .

Rates in 2021 for commercial insurance seem to be rising faster than a runaway balloon.

But all is not lost. There are things you can do to help lower your insurance premiums. I’ve been posting a few on LinkedIn. I’ve owned a small fleet of large vehicles and probably overpaid for my insurance like everyone else.

But after doing loss control reviews for a number of years, I’ve talked with scores of top fleet owners in various industries about their best practices. These are things I wish someone had told me.

Please note: I am not an insurance agent. I do not sell insurance. This blog is for information purposes only. Please use your discretion in applying any information to your particular situation and circumstances. Results may vary. 

More Insurance Saving Tips

Here are some more random insurance savings tips.

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #5.

Read the insurance policy.

Okay, it’s pages and pages of gobbledygook, part legalese, part esoteric insurance terms. But the policy is a contract . . . a contract which specifies what the parties need to do to remain in good standing with each other.

Some insurance policies follow a standard format. Some, like Inland Marine, covering property or attached equipment, which is mobile, can have their own idiosyncrasies, specific to that insurance company, and should be carefully reviewed. Never skip reviewing an Inland Marine policy.

If you don’t read the policy right away, be sure to always review the “dec sheet” or “Declarations Page” which is a one or two page summary of the policy, names the insurer and insured, and indicates the type of coverage in that particular policy. Make sure all of the information is correct.

Contact your agent immediately, if you have any questions about your policy. It will be too late after a claim . . .

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #7

Expand your “network.”

Networking with personal and business contacts and acquaintances is the number one way people exchange valuable information . . . information that matters.

Track your contacts. Reach out to them and help them, if you can. It’s not about you—it’s about them and building good will by helping them meet their goals and objectives.

Be a joiner. Join any association which represents your interests. Become a member and stay active.

What does any of this have to do with insurance? Some insurance companies will ask you point blank: What associations is your business affiliated with? Membership does have its # benefits . . . like staying aware of coming industry changes, new regulations, new standards . . .

Bottom line: Your network is your “net worth.” But it doesn’t happen overnight. Start building your network now!

021 Insurance Saving Tip #8

Take advantage of expert help to lower risk and improve your safety profile.

Some of the safest companies I have reviewed (close to perfect risk profiles), sourced their safety needs to specialized safety experts. If they had trucks, they used a DOT expert to guide their safety and compliance program. If they worked in construction, they hired an OSHA expert. If they had employees, they either provided in-house training or hired a safety-training expert.

Such experts can sometimes be found at local, state or national associations, dedicated to your respective industry or sector.

Your insurance company may provide these expert safety services at no cost through their loss-control department or outside contractors. In Texas, for example, this is the law.

Be sure to ask your insurance agent what “loss-control” expert assistance they can provide or safety and training resources they have available.

Thank you for reading this. Be sure to subscribe for more money-saving tips. 

Random Insurance Savings Tips for 2021

Top Insurance Tips Can Save You More than Money . . .

Since the beginning of the year I have been listing some ways you can save money on commercial insurance premium on LinkedIn. As not everyone has a LinkedIn account, I decided to post a few of them here.

Please note: I am not an insurance agent. I do not sell insurance. This blog is for information purposes only. Please use your discretion in applying any information to your particular situation and circumstances. Results may vary. 

It’s no secret . . . commercial insurance for many organizations has been going up about 5% every year. Add in some claims and the premium can rise 10%, 20% or even more. Affordable insurance is a real issue for many businesses and organizations.

Not everyone is aware of the fact that almost two identical organizations, about the same size, with approximately the same revenue and level of risk will be paying different premiums. Sometimes radically different amounts in their premiums, even twice or three times the difference. This makes some folks really angry when they talk with friends or acquaintances and find they are the ones who are paying much more.

But not everyone is aware of the fact that there are things they can do, certain actions they can take, which will lower their insurance premiums. As an added bonus, doing these things and taking some of these actions will also result in a better, more efficient and profitable organization, beyond any potential insurance savings.

In any case, I’ve worked with business people with 30, 40, sometimes with over 50 years of business experience who have shared some things they learned over decades of dealing with insurance. Some are simple. Others take a little effort, but the savings are worth it.

Top Insurance Saving Tips

So here we go . . . Here are a few random “insider” insurance savings tips:

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #1.

If you haven’t “shopped out” your insurance needs in the last two years, you won’t know how much you could be saving. Many organizations put insurance on the back burner, not realizing in a competitive market, rates can change in their favor. It’s a good policy to get a new quote every few years.

Bonus Insider Tip: Sometimes merely getting a new quote can defer an increase in premium.

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #3.

Invest in safety. Be proactive—not reactive.

Most work-related mishaps are preventable. You cannot afford a “static” safety program. Only about 20% of companies really get it . . . and that’s usually after having experienced a preventable mishap or close call. Learn from their mistakes and work for continuous safety improvement.

Bonus Insider Tip: Always have a new safety initiative in the works.

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #4.

Review your insurance loss runs every six months.

Insurance companies are behemoths and don’t often make mistakes. But when they do, a small mistake on their end can impact your premiums. A bigger mistaken can even result in a notice of cancellation.

Under state law, you are legally entitled to a copy of your loss runs in 10-15 days, depending on the jurisdiction.

Bonus Insider Tip: Be sure the information “on file,” at the insurance company concerning your losses is correct, whether you have had any losses or not!

Thank you for reading this.

Top ELD Violations to Avoid

Top ELD Violations

Top ELD Violations (Used with permission from CTSE, link below)

The Little Things Make a Big Difference

When it comes to keeping electronic logs, the little things make a big difference. Or as at least one professional driver once told me, there are no small mistakes in trucking.

Since  April 1, 2018, the ELD “enforcement deadline,” all ELD violations are reflected in a motor carrier’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) score. The violations fall off after two years, improving the score. This means it’s important NOT to incur these violations as your company can be stuck with them for a while.

Every violation is assigned a ‘violation severity weight’ by the DOT. For example, operating with a device that is not registered with FMCSA (49 CFR, Part 395.22A) has a violation severity weight of 5, on a scale of 1 to 10.

Severity weights help differentiate varying degrees of crash risk associated with specific violations.

All logging violations are considered fairly serious.The good news is that they are all controllable, and hence preventable.

What does your Insurance Company Expect?

All violations and crashes are funneled by the DOT into one of seven Behavior Analysis Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs). A higher BASIC score reflects negatively and several BASICs with higher scores can trigger DOT safety compliance reviews, which in turn can result in a negative safety rating (like “Conditional” or “Unsatisfactory”).

The BASICs are not only used by the DOT for enforcement purposes, but also by private industry as an indicator of safety. Shippers and brokers use these scores to vet motor carriers. Trial attorneys like to pound the table with a carrier’s high BASIC scores, if a company is involved in a crash, even a minor fender bender.

And insurance companies use BASICs as a risk indicator.

Each BASICs can range between 0 to 100%. For insurance purposes, every individual BASIC should not be much over 20%. Any BASICs in an “alert” status are not acceptable to the insurance industry. This cannot be emphasized enough. Again, a high BASIC and a fender bender can result in a policy cancellation or jump in premium.

For a small company or a new company, staying under a 20% threshold for any BASIC is very difficult. If a carrier has one out-of-service violation from two roadside inspections, on paper it looks bad. The only way they can improve their situation is by having several more “clean” roadside inspections.

What’s the Solution?

The best cure when it comes to navigating the DOT’s regulatory system, is prevention. Drivers need to know how to use their ELDs, keep essential and supporting documents on the truck, keep paper logs to back up the ELD in case it fails, and know what they are doing when they use their ELDs.

Top Tip: Stop at rest-stops before any open inspection stations and do a quick walkaround, checking tires, lights, logbook status, etc. Fix anything before going through the roadside inspection station. You will likely need to fix it anyway, and don’t need a possible fine and citation, DOT scores in alert status, and higher insurance rates. ■

Thank you for reading this.

Thanks to The Center for Transportation Safety Excellence for use of their graphic.

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John Taratuta, Insurance Safety & Risk Engineer

CDL Entry-level Driver Training (ELDT) Rule

truck diver

What is the Entry Level Driver Training Rule (ELDT) for CDL truck drivers?

As of Feb. 7, 2022 anyone who obtains a Class A or B Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), or a School Bus (S), Passenger (P), or a Hazardous Materials (H) endorsement needs to have formal training at a listed training provider.

Are there any exceptions to the ELDT rule?

Your state may allow for the following circumstances:

  • Exception for certain military drivers. §383.3(c)
  • Exception for farmers, firefighters, emergency response vehicle drivers, and drivers removing snow and ice. §383.3(d)
  • Exception for drivers of “covered farm vehicles.” §383.3(h)
  • Drivers applying for a restricted CDL (Alaska- §383.3(e)), farm-related service industries §383.3(f), and certain drivers in the pyrotechnic industry §383.3(g)

A understanding of your state’s motor vehicle code is essential to know both the exceptions from training, if any, and the limitations of a CDL without training.

Essentially, for insurance purposes, having at least the minimum required training is looked upon by insurance underwriters as favorable to obtain reasonable insurance rates. One major insurance company likes to see at least 24 hours of hands-on, one-on-one training, plus as much or more in-class training.

Where can the required training be obtained?

The training provider needs to: 1.) meet the FMCSA’s eligibility requirements and 2.) be listed on FMCSA’s Training Provider Registry.

Thank you for reading this. ■

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John Taratuta, Safety & Risk Engineer, 989-474-9599



Top Tip of the Day: Block Heaters in Winter

Winter Driving Tip


Block Heaters

Block heaters are a must in northern regions.

Plug in the block heater while the engine is still warm.

In extreme cold, install two block heaters.

Avoid using ether for cold starts. Use as little ether as possible, about a one second spray into the air intake, while the engine is turning over.

A block heater needs to be mounted as low as possible—at least 2” below the point where the heated fluid will enter the motor or fluid reservoir.

A block heater will provide many years of service with little danger of the element burning out—provided there is good circulation of the coolant at all times.

There is no “pump” inside a block heater. Instead the coolant flows based due to natural convection.

Thank you for reading this. ■

Lower Your Commercial Truck Insurance


Commercial Truck Insurance Can be Expensive

Frequently fleet owners frequently express their concerns to me about their rising insurance premiums. Insurance for heavy commercial trucks can carry a heavy price tag. This article will detail a number of ways to lower your insurance, from a business perspective.

Axiom 1: Trucking is a Business

The purpose of engaging in trucking is to provide a service to a customer to make a profit.

The most important question: Is there a need for your type and level of services? Do you have a customer or customer base? With fair amounts of freight available, there are many trucking businesses starting up without any customers. They totally depend on obtaining loads through third-parties as brokers or 3PLs. They are depending 100% on “luck,” in my opinion. Top tip: Find a customer or two, before starting out . . .

Axiom 2: Business is a Long-term Proposition

Accountants are taught the basic concept of a business as a “going-concern.”

Going concern is an accounting term for a company that has the resources needed to continue operating indefinitely until it provides evidence to the contrary. This term also refers to a company’s ability to make enough money to stay afloat or avoid bankruptcy.

It can literally take years to realize a business return-on-investment (ROI), if ever. Most businesses, however, are marginal or even not profitable. Are you in it for the long haul?

Axiom 3: Most businesses fail before the owner or owners intended. Trucking is no exception. 

Reasons for trucking business failure include:

  • A shift in market conditions: customers do not need your services
  • A change in conditions: new regulations, customer bankruptcy, litigation, and other game-changing events occur like the COVID-19 (coronavirus).
  • Miscalculation: mismatched equipment for the job; obsolete equipment; improper vetting of drivers; under-capitalized (little equity or cash in the business), no real understanding of the industry

Axiom 4: A Business “Mindset” is Required To Survive or Thrive in Trucking

Extraordinary business skills are not required in a business like trucking. A good basis in ordinary business skills is necessary, including a business mindset.

A mindset is a belief that orients the way we handle situations—the way we sort out what is going on and what we should do. Our mindsets help us spot opportunities, but they can also trap us in self-defeating cycles.

Mindsets aren’t just any beliefs. They are beliefs that orient our reactions and tendencies. They serve a number of cognitive functions. They let us frame situations: they direct our attention to the most important cues, so that we’re not overwhelmed with information. They suggest sensible goals so that we know what we should be trying to achieve. They prime us with reasonable courses of action so that we don’t have to puzzle out what to do. When our mindsets become habitual, they define who we are, and who we can become. Gary Klein Ph.D.

A basic business mindset might include acknowledging from time-to-time the need to review and control all of your costs, including insurance.

Axiom 5: You can Lower Your Commercial Truck Insurance Premiums

Insurance is about risk management or properly managing your risks. It’s not the job of the insurance company to run your business or tell you what kinds of risks you should or should not take. They would not know where to start.

The insurance company is happy to rate your level of risk, if you are in an industry segment they insure. Certain transportation segments (i.e., log hauling, heavy-duty towing) have fewer insurance companies interested in them, so premiums are much higher.

Some insurance companies have a fully resourced Loss Control department to help you control adverse events as much as possible. Some are weak in this area. In any case, don’t abdicate your responsibility to protect your bottom line.

How to Lower Your Premiums

The biggest risk in trucking is the driver. A major mistake is to hire drivers who may have a questionable driving record, are not properly qualified, or lack experience. Sometimes we hire a friend, family member or acquaintance. That’s okay—if they are able to safely do the job.

Soon all new CDL drivers will have to go to school. Do you look for trained drivers when hiring? Do you road test or assess their skills and knowledge in other ways?

The second biggest risk is not properly monitoring the driver. Most truck insurance companies are now expecting some level of telematics be installed on all trucks. One company I work with reserves the right to access the telematics at any time. How do you monitor driver behavior?

There are other risks in no particular order that also concern the insurance company:

  • Do you train and develop your drivers? Are training records available?
  • Are your safe drivers recognized or even rewarded?
  • Do you train and develop your safety staff?
  • Do you have a relationship with business professionals who can help you? (Attorney, CPA, Safety Consultants, Trainers, and others)
  • Do you have a good relationship with your agent/producer or broker? Do you know who your underwriter is? Help them to help you.
  • Do you know what to do if you are unfortunate enough to have a claim? What not to do? Ask your agent for a complete checklist before you might need it. Don’t rely on an 800-number tied to an overseas location.
  • Do you operate top-notch equipment?
  • Do you have a top-notch maintenance program?
  • Do you stay up with current driver safety technology?
  • Does your company have membership in, or support any safety associations?
  • What safety-initiatives have you taken in the last year? What safety-initiatives do you have planned? Don’t wait for someone to rescue you. No one is coming.
  • Are you “defendable” in court? Do you keep excellent paperwork? Are there high-quality dashcams in all your trucks? Can you beat a questionable claim, if necessary?
  • Are you cooperative with your insurance company? Is insurance or risk management something you approach seriously? Do you or your staff respond to inquiries in a timely and reasonable manner?
  • Do you monitor your CSA Safety Profile?
  • Are all your CSA BASICs not much over 20%? Any BASICs in an “alert” status are not acceptable to the insurance industry.
  • Top tip: Shop around every renewal. It may not lower your premium, but this simple act can sometimes keep it from rising.

Approaching your trucking business with a business and risk-management mindset will go far to help lower your insurance premiums and ensure the continuation of your business as a ‘going concern.’  ■

Thank you for reading this. Opinions expressed are my own and may not reflect any positions of the clients or companies I work with.

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John Taratuta, Safety & Risk Engineer, 989-474-9599

Free 2019 CCJ Air Brake Book

Air Brake Book Tenth Edition

Introducing the 2019 CCJ Air Brake Book

Commercial Carrier Journal is offering a free .PDF of the 2019 CCJ Air Brake Book.

While the basic concepts of air-brake systems have not changed, this edition covers new brake technology, preventive maintenance practices, an outline of the all-new 2019  Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) air-brake out-of-service criteria and Air Brake Pushrod Stroke guidelines used by law enforcement.

In short, this guide is must reading, if you own or operate commercial motor vehicles with air-brake systems.

Stay up to date with the latest information on truck air brakes.

Stay alert—stay alive! ■

Check Your CSA Scores

Crash Indicator BASIC

Know the Score

If for no other reason than ‘occasionally mistakes are made,’ it is a good practice to check your motor carrier safety and performance data on a regular basis—say, monthly.

What kind of mistakes? As motor carriers as tracked by their individually assigned U.S. DOT number, it is not unheard of to have another motor carrier’s violation show up under your DOT number, if someone mistakenly puts in a wrong digit of the number.

Drivers may forget to inform you of a failed roadside inspection or that they were stopped and ticketed for a traffic infraction, moving violation, or a violation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

How to Check Your Score?

To check your CSA scores and profile, go to the CSA landing page.

Then, in the box under “Check Motor Carrier Safety and Performance Data,” type or paste either the name or company under which you registered with the DOT or your U.S. DOT number. This will take you to the “Overview” page.

On the Overview page, you will see your “Out of Service Rates,” expressed as a percentage, for Vehicles and Drivers. These percentages should stay under the national average.

Further down the Overview page are the individual Behavior Analysis & Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs). As a rule, these should not go above the 20 per cent line in any of the seven BASICs, of which only five are available for viewing by the general public. For insurance purposes, none of the BASICs should ever be flagged in an “Alert” status.

Below the BASICs on the Overview page is a link to your “Complete SMS Profile.” Here you will find a “Violation Summary” showing a list of violations, and a “Inspection History” showing a listing of inspections.

Study the Inspection History for new violations, any violations which may be unknown to you, or violations that may be listed here by mistake. Investigate these violations to your satisfaction.

Next is a Crash Activity Detail or a listing of vehicles “involved” in a crash. Under a new proposed method, certain crashes (deemed nonpreventable) will likely not be tracked in the future.

Study the Crash Activity Detail section to make sure it is accurate. Generally you will not find any “property” damage accidents or incidents listed here, so it may not be as complete as your insurance loss runs.

Why Bother?

The main reasons to check your CSA safety and performance data are as follows:

  1. Insurance companies are interested in the data when they underwrite policies
  2. Shippers and brokers are interested in the data in assigning loads
  3. The press and media can use this information, if your company is involved in an incident/accident/collision
  4. Mistakes can occur, and, if not corrected, can affect the above
  5. The bottom line: Your reputation is at stake. Bad data or incorrect data can lead to bad judgments about your operations

Correcting the Mistakes

In an upcoming blog we will discuss how to correct mistakes on your safety profile using DataQs.

Thank you for reading this.

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John Taratuta, Safety & Risk Engineer, 989-474-9599



Trucker . . . or Motor Carrier?

tractor  So . . . Are you a “trucker” or a “motor carrier?”

Ask anyone involved in trucking if they are a “trucker” or a “motor carrier” and they might scratch their heads as they give you a funny look.

While it’s true that when it comes to insurance, the policies are almost identical, the two terms are not—at least in the world of insurance.

Why the difference?

One effect of Motor Carrier Act of 1980 was that private carriers who were not in the trucking business could sell some of their capacity. Perhaps a widget factory hauled a load of widgets to a destination, and returned empty (deadheaded back). This was not only an inefficient use of resources, but clogged the highways with empty trucks. Once trucking was deregulated, in 1993 the Insurance Services Office, Inc. (ISO), created the Motor Carriers Coverage Form for private carriers.

The term trucker is defined as “A person, firm or corporation in the business of transporting goods, materials or commodities for another.” Commercial Lines Manual

Who is a Trucker?

The term trucker is defined as “A person, firm or corporation in the business of transporting goods, materials or commodities for another.” So says the Commercial Lines Manual. So anybody that in the business of hauling stuff for others is considered a trucker for insurance purposes.

On the other hand, the definition of a motor carrier is, “A person or organization providing transportation by auto in the furtherance of a commercial enterprise.” This is anybody using trucks, but not really in the trucking business.

Does it make a difference?

Unless you are directly involved with insurance, there is not much difference in the terms. “Trucker” or “motor carrier” can be used interchangeably.

But if you are dealing with your insurance company, for purposes of clarity, you may want to specify if you are a trucker or a motor carrier.

Keep in mind that the U.S. Department of Transportation has its own set of definitions as well.

And if you are involved in approving trucking contracts, be sure the terms are defined to your satisfaction.

Thank you for reading this.

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John Taratuta, Safety & Risk Engineer, 989-474-9599

Why is My Trucking Insurance so Expensive?

Highway truck

Guest blog by Jeffery Gordon

Our agency gets no less than 10 calls a week from owner operators in Louisiana and Texas looking to get their own authority. The majority of owner operators are shocked when we ballpark what trucking insurance will cost them. New venture trucking risks are difficult to place right now, at affordable rates anyway. I’ll save my soap box rant on why, and what I think will help, for another time.

Trucking can be Risky

One reason new venture trucking insurance is priced so high is there are very few insurance companies wanting to write them. The last few years have been tough on insurance carriers. Their loss ratios have not been favorable. Meaning the insurance carriers are paying out much more in claims than they are receiving in premium. On average, loss ratios have been in excess of 150%! Some of the fault lies on the shoulders of the insurance carriers. Better handling and more efficiency in the claims process could do wonders. Tort reform at the state level would definitely help us all.

With that said, there are a few quality insurance carriers offering affordable trucking insurance for owner operators in Louisiana and Texas. These carriers appetites differ from others, and that is part of the reason why their Louisiana and Texas trucking insurance rates are affordable.

These markets are fairly exclusive, so not all agencies have access to them.

What is your risk strategy?

I would suggest any owner operator in Louisiana or Texas make a few calls to LOCAL, reputable insurance agencies that focus on Louisiana and Texas trucking insurance. The insurance carriers writing new venture Louisiana and Texas trucking insurance at an affordable rate, want the radius to be within 300 miles. Their research and data show new trucking operations staying within a 200-300 mile radius, have more favorable loss ratios than those going out further.

I have owner operators push back often on the shorter radius. They say they can “make” $2,300 on a load that takes them on a 1,000 mile run. Maybe so. But what are the expenses associated with that longer run? Fuel, wear/tear, Fuel Tax, tolls, etc…The expenses add up the longer you run. Back to my point on the insurance. If a new venture owner operator in Louisiana or Texas calls me requesting coverage for their long haul operation, I suspect their cost is going to exceed $18,000 annually. The lesser radius can reduce that cost by several thousand dollars.

Make sure you have a knowledgeable trucking insurance agent on your team. There are many variables that go into calculating an insurance rate. You want to work with an agent that will give you honest and helpful input into your operation. A good agent will be part of your team and assist you in being profitable!

Jeffrey Gordon is President of The Bayou Agency, LLC dba Bayou Insurance. He can be reached at (318) 805-6448.

Disclaimer required by the Federal Trade Commission: We are not compensated for this blog by this guest blogger or his company. This information is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal or professional advice on any subject matter.

You should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of any content included in this site without seeking legal or other professional advice.

Using any of the information or content available on this website is at your own risk.

Thank you for reading this.

Tractor-trailer Pileup!



At 5AM on December 19, one of the first ‘pileups’ of the winter began. This one was on Eastbound I-90, Missoula, Montana, near mile marker 58, involving not one or two trucks—but a total of 5 tractor-trailers, resulting in fatal injuries for two of the drivers, including one who may have jumped over the side of the bridge, falling over 100 feet. In addition to the drivers who were hurt or killed, a first responder was seriously injured as well.

Lessons Learned . . .

  1. Slow down. It’s winter.
  2. Don’t overdrive your headlights. It may take longer to stop.
  3. It is generally safer to stay in the vehicle, if on a bridge.
  4. Expect bridges to be icy. Be ready . . . slow down some more.
  5. Expect rapid changes in conditions as the seasons change
  6. Expect the unexpected. This sounds cliche, even sounds dumb, but the minute you let your guard down you become a passenger, not a driver.

Job number 1 . . . 2 . . . and 3 is to always arrive safely at your destination.

Winter is here. Drive for conditions. ■

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John Taratuta, Safety & Risk Engineer, 989-474-9599


Managing Your Risk in Trucking

rollawayManaging Risk in Trucking

On Oct. 17, 2018 the Transport Topics’ LiveOnWeb program, “Managing Risk in Trucking” was broadcast.

Panelists included:

  • Joe DeLorenzo, director of the Office of Enforcement and Compliance at FMCSA.
  • Lisa Gonnerman, vice president of safety and security at Transport America.
  • Bert Mayo, director of transportation risk solutions for TrueNorth Companies.

In a Nutshell

Delorenzo talked about changes in the works on how the DOT will score trucking companies in the area of safety. The DOT will be taking a more data-based, evidence-based approach in how haulers are assessed, with the goal of prevention of safety incidents.

Gonnerman spoke on how Transport America (over 1,300 trucks and 1,500 drivers) uses the latest safety tools and technology to recruit, train and develop their workforce, from the use of driving simulators to collision avoidance technology. Her tips included the advice to invest in new safety technology, especially in the area of rear-end collisions, “There are some great products out there.”

Mayo covered some of the recent insurance industry changes in how CSA has been used in rating motor carriers. “It’s a ‘hard market.’ By that I mean, insurance premiums keep going up.”

Mayo said there are a few things companies can do to keep their premiums down:

  • Manage your ‘cost of risk’ (how much you pay out of pocket)
  • Do a better job of managing safety
  • Take on more risk (higher deductibles)
  • Look into the captive insurance market (shared losses), if your fleet’s size runs into the hundreds of trucks

Watch the Program

This is the one presentation in 2018 you do not want to miss. (Starts at 8:50)

Kudos to our good friends at Transport Topics and Protective Insurance for their sponsorship of this program. Even if you are not in the market for insurance at this time, be sure to check out all their valuable safety information and insights.

Thank you for reading this.

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John Taratuta, Safety & Risk Engineer, 989-474-9599

Mass. USDOT Number Required for All CMVs

US DOT Number is required on all trucks.Enforcement Delayed until January 1, 2019

As of September 1, 2018, intrastate motor carriers in Massachusetts are required to obtain and display a United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) number per 540 CMR 2.22, the Commercial Marking section of the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) regulations. Strict enforcement of the new regulations has been delayed until January 1, 2019 to allow time to obtain and display the numbers.

Who must Register?

This applies to motor carriers operating the following commercial motor vehicles (CMVs):
  • Operating in intrastate commerce having a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 or more pounds.
  • Used in the transportation of hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placarding.
  • Designed to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, used in intrastate commerce in Massachusetts.

If a company operates a subject vehicle, it must be permanently marked with a USDOT number assigned in a manner conforming to the provisions of 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 390.21. Please note that the requirement for a USDOT number is based upon the definition above, regardless of how any individual vehicle may be registered with the Massachusetts RMV.

How do I Register?

To obtain a USDOT Number, visit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website.  From there, follow the Registration link to obtain an intrastate USDOT number. The company will be issued a single USDOT number that must be displayed on all CMVs as defined above that the company operates, including leased vehicles. There is no charge to obtain this number from the USDOT-FMCSA.

Picture of John Taratuta

John Taratuta, Safety & Risk Engineer, 989-474-9599

States that Ban Hand-held Devices


cell phoneIntrastate Operations . . .

Do you know the U.S. jurisdictions that ban the use of use of hand-held devices while driving? No?

Well, here they are:

California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, *Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.

*The Georgia House Bill 673 also known as the “Hands Free Law” went into effect on July 1, 2018.

A “wireless telecommunications device” is defined as a cellular telephone, a portable telephone, a text-messaging device, a personal digital assistant, a stand-alone computer, a global positioning system receiver or substantially similar portable wireless device that is used to initiate or receive communication, information or data.


Under the new law in Georgia, any person operating a motor vehicle is prohibited from:

(1) Physically holding or supporting, with any part of his or her body a wireless telecommunications device (except when using an earpiece, headphone device, or device worn on a wrist to conduct voice-based communication) or stand-alone electronic device;

(2) Writing, sending, or reading any text based communication, including a text message, instant message, e-mail, or Internet data on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device. This prohibition does not apply to a voice-based communication which is automatically converted by a device to be sent as a message in a written form, or to a device used for navigation or global positioning system purposes;

(3) Watching a video or movie on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device other than watching data related to the navigation of such vehicle; or

(4) Recording or broadcasting a video on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device (except for electronic devices used for the sole purpose of continuously recording or broadcasting video within or outside of the motor vehicle).

Note: anyone making or uploading videos for YouTube using a handheld telecommunication device or other digital recorder while driving would be in violation. And, of course, watching a movie on a cell phone while driving is a major no-no.


1.    Commercial Motor Vehicle Operators can only use one button to begin or end a phone call
2.    Cannot reach for a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device that it no longer requires the driver to be a seated position or properly restrained by a safety belt

The only exceptions are emergencies and reporting hazards, and use by utility personnel or first responders in the course of their work.

Thank you for reading this.

Picture of John Taratuta

John Taratuta, Safety & Risk Engineer, 989-474-9599

Distracted & Deadly . . .

Distracted driver crashed into stopped tracffic

Zombie Driver . . .

It was the start of an ordinary day. Traffic on eastbound Hwy. 13 was stopped for a red light at the Washburn Avenue intersection in Burnsville, Minnesota. Little did four people know they would be involved in a serious crash that would send two of them to the hospital for treatment for injuries.

Rear-end collisions are a fairly common occurrence, about 28% of all crashes, according to the NTSB. For 2016, the last year with complete data, “Large Truck Rear-Ending Passenger Vehicle” were the cause of 4.5% of fatal collisions involving a truck (FMCSA).

This collision is unusual in two respects:

  • The crash was caught on video
  • Bad as it was, the crash could have been much, much worse

Posted by Pat Nelson on Friday, September 7, 2018


Ninety-seven percent of vehicle occupants killed in two-vehicle crashes involving a passenger vehicle and a large truck in 2016 were occupants of the passenger vehicles.  Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Lessons Learned

  1. Drivers of large vehicles need to be trained. And trained in emergency procedures, to include knowing when to swerve to avoid a collision. This topic is beyond the scope of the CDL manual and needs to be covered at the company level. Drivers need to be completely indoctrinated in executing proper procedures in an emergency situation. Advanced training can include attendance at a truck skid school to practice what was discussed.
  2. Savvy fleet owners invest in collision-avoidance technology. As there are many older trucks on the road, the age of the vehicle is no excuse with new systems as Forward Collision Warning (FCW) from Mobileye, which can be mounted on any vehicle. The deployment in the 1990s of the rear-center stop light resulted in a decrease in read-end collisions, so technology can make a difference.
  3. Automobile drivers need to stay about 100 feet (7 car lengths) behind any stopped truck and use their warning flashers to get the attention of the drivers behind them, paying attention to traffic that might not stop. Then, after several vehicles stop behind their vehicle, close the gap with the truck ahead.

Thank you for reading this.

Picture of John Taratuta

John Taratuta, Safety & Risk Engineer, 989-474-9599