Addressing the Commercial Truck Insurance Crisis

Fleet Management|Blogs
Insuring commercial trucks

The insurance landscape for commercial transportation finds itself navigating treacherous terrain. With the specter of truck accidents, theft, loss, and driver-related issues looming large, the economic backdrop has spawned a crisis in insurance, sending rates soaring and sending shockwaves through fleet management circles.

Nuclear verdicts and litigation awards further compound the challenges, leaving private fleets grappling with the daunting task of mitigating these escalating costs to safeguard their businesses.

In this article, we delve into the depths of this insurance crisis, exploring its multifaceted impacts on the commercial trucking industry and offering strategic solutions to help businesses steer clear of financial peril. From dissecting the trends driving insurance premiums skyward to advocating for safe fleet management practices and innovative leasing options, we aim to equip fleet managers with the insights and tools necessary to navigate these turbulent waters and emerge stronger on the other side.

Trucking Insurance Trends

Shopping for standard car insurance with the lowest monthly payment can be an overwhelming task, especially when searching for a rate that falls within a planned budget. For private fleet managers, however, this is especially difficult. General liability, truck liability, bobtail coverage, non-truck liability, cargo, and physical damage insurance is covered in commercial truck insurance that ranges in price depending on your business location’s state. And, when looking at the bigger picture, the high rate for commercial truck insurance impacts many areas of transportation outside of a larger bill. For example, some companies may be required to scale back their operations to accommodate a hefty insurance expense. This includes:

  • Reducing the number of commercial vehicles in their fleet
  • Laying off employees or instituting a hiring freeze
  • Limiting the number or types of jobs taken to minimize miles driven

Did you know that nearly 90% of carriers with smaller fleets paid more on insurance premiums per mile in 2022? This is a common occurrence in the trucking industry, and this extra expense can be a roadblock for many new local businesses starting out. But this isn’t the only alarming statistic. In fact, according to data from the 2023 American Trucking Research Institute's (ATRI) Operational Costs of Trucking Update, large fleets paid 7.7 cents less per mile than small fleets in 2022.

So why do fleet managers typically pay more on insurance for 10 commercial vehicles as opposed to 100 commercial trucks or vans? This boils down to unsafe hiring and safety practices. Compared to established, larger businesses, smaller organizations face an uphill obstacle creating and fostering the growth of strong working relationships with clients. Unless there is a conflict that can impact scheduling and delay deliveries, vendors typically partner with specific parties, such as one dedicated third-party logistics (3PL) provider.

When a new business begins looking for leads to fulfill a company’s transportation needs, it’s crucial for fleet managers, drivers, and other staff to make a strong first impression. Unfortunately, this can create a situation of overpromising and under-delivering the quality of work performed, or vice versa. And, because private fleets are under pressure to quickly break even and eventually turn a profit to stay in business, human resources and hiring managers are determined to minimize costs where possible. In turn, proper training and policies programs can become neglected or cancelled altogether, and this can drastically increase driving infractions. For example, from 2021 to 2022, violations grew by 338,311 for fleets with one to 20 power units, as opposed to 91,737 violations for fleets with 21 to 100 units.

The Impact of Nuclear Verdicts and Litigation Awards on Trucking Insurance

Along with violations, nuclear verdicts are also on the rise adding to the insurance crisis. Nuclear verdicts are settlements or court awards paid to the plaintiff in an amount that exceeds $10 million. These can be catastrophic to a business. According to the ATRI, the average award for plaintiffs’ verdicts from June 2020 to April 2023 was $31,862,776. This staggering amount is particularly concerning because the average verdict awards were already increasing 51.7% per year from 2010 to 2018. With this in mind, there is a direct correlation between litigation awards and rising insurance premiums because trucking companies are in a position of high risk for large payouts when held liable for an accident. And, this created rising annual rates of 35 to 40 percent for smaller fleets from 2016 to 2019.

The Importance of Developing Safe Fleet Management Practices

Whether you’re a fleet manager for a startup or established business, having a solid strategy in place for safe fleet management practices is crucial to maintaining a great reputation among the trucking community. By continuously upholding and following safety protocols, your drivers will be empowered to handle their commercial vehicle with more caution. Here are some steps your company can take:

  • Build an employee culture around safety
  • Invest in the right equipment and safety technologies
  • Clearly define safety standards for all employees
  • Provide continued education and training on best safety practices

The insurance crisis on rising premium costs may be difficult to navigate when searching for the right provider for your company. However, these steps can reduce accidents in the workplace or on the road, increase the company’s overall safety rating, and influence more experienced drivers to apply for employment. Ultimately, these factors can prevent nuclear verdicts, gain the respect of insurance providers and give you more bargaining power when negotiating rates.

Leasing Trucks with Vehicle Protection

One thing to consider with your business’s fleet is researching leasing options as an alternative to owning your commercial vehicles. Leasing trucks with vehicle protection sets costs at a fixed rate and helps companies have a stronger overview on their budget predictability. Leasing also outsources maintenance to a 3PL provider that can mitigate insurance risks. For example, Ryder offers preventive, full-service, or on-demand maintenance packages built-in to the lease which cover vehicles with 24/7 roadside assistance, warranty management, tire repairs, and other safety services.

A third-party logistics provider such as Ryder may also offer flexible financing and lease terms with excellent benefits. Ryder offers:

  • 100% financing with no down payment or residual risk under a Fair Market Value Lease
  • A Tax Advantage Solution that provides a reduction in interest and maintenance costs with tax benefits
  • A pre-set price on equipment through the FlexTrac program that can improve cash flow

Why You Should Consider Dedicated Transportation Solutions

Sometimes, the flow of business operations can exceed the realistic amount of labor that can be provided by staff. In these cases, executives may need to hone in on specific areas to maintain balance within their organization, and this can, unintentionally, neglect fleet management. This leaves room for the business to fully outsource their fleet to dedicated transportation solutions from a third-party logistics provider.

Dedicated transportation, also known as dedicated contract carriage, optimizes traditional fleet management by providing tailored services and customized solutions, which pass the risk to the provider. In other words, the dedicated provider assumes the liability in the case of an accident, theft/loss, or nuclear verdict. Here’s how it works:

1. Trucks are fully customized to your brand which can include logo wraps.

2. Drivers are hired to represent your business behind-the-wheel.

3. Drivers are trained to reflect your company’s policies.

4. The 3PL provider utilizes transportation management system (TMS) technology to provide real-time visibility, routing, scheduling, and administrative support.

Once a dedicated transportation solution is set in place, you can spend more time focusing on core business functions and place all fleet management on a reliable team to keep operations cost-effective and efficient.

Overcoming the Insurance Crisis for Commercial Trucks

With rising premiums, costs per mile, and nuclear verdicts, it’s more important than ever for private businesses with smaller fleets to overcome the insurance crisis for commercial trucks. Proactive measures must be taken today to begin fostering a culture around company safety, such as refreshing staff on policies and best practices. But, it may be in the best interest of your business to explore leasing with vehicle protection or a dedicated transportation solution.

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