Commercial Truck Insurance Cheat Sheet

Finding good vehicle insurance can be akin to traversing a mine field, especially when it comes to commercial truck insurance. Here you'll find everything you need to know in order to avoid the many pit falls and ensure you walk away with the best deal, including a rundown of what level and type of insurance you're legally obliged to purchase as well as top tips for keeping costs low.

Basic information you'll need to take out commercial truck insurance

Even just getting set up with truck insurance can be a tricky process, though it'll run a little smoother if you're armed with as much information as possible. Some companies will give you a quote without the following information, but they'll need proof and certificates before you can actually get covered.

  • Your current insurance policy declarations page - also known as a "dec page".
  • If you don't have a commercial insurance dec page, use a current personal auto one. Alternatively, you can get your new insurer to get the dec page from your old insurer directly.
  • Drivers license numbers and basic driving histories of all drivers, including speeding tickets.
  • Your quote will rise if a driver is later found out to have a worse driving history than you said.
  • VIN numbers (vehicle identification numbers) of each vehicle, plus a rundown of safety and security features on each truck.
  • If you don't have the VIN number handy, just provide the insurance company with as much detail about the vehicle as you can, including the model, manufacturer and year.

If there's any information you can't find, most companies will give you a quote based on your estimations. However, the quote will change when they inevitably find out the facts.

Top Tip - Ignore the Industry Averages

With auto insurance, it's been widely circulated (by CNN and that prices vary massively between states, sometimes as much as double depending on where you reside.

While there's a certain truth to such figures, they're of very little use to the individual - even if you were willing to move across the country just to lower your premiums by a few hundred bucks, so many factors come into play that they don't make very accurate rules of thumb. Your best bet is to get quotes with a few providers with as much information as you can provide, and use those as a benchmark.

Overview of truck insurance types

While there are numerous factors to consider when insuring your truck, commercial vehicle insurance can be broken down to four main types.

  • Liability insurance - this is the mandatory insurance which pays for any damage you cause with your truck. Driving without this insurance is an offense and could result in heavy penalties.
  • Bobtail insurance - also known as deadhead or non-trucking liability, this insurance is voluntary and covers your truck for when you're on the road (i.e. when you're having it serviced etc).
  • Motor Truck cargo - this insurance covers the load you're carrying. It isn't mandatory but some shipping companies insist on it.
  • Physical damage coverage - again not a legal requirement, but this insurance covers your truck against perils like fire, theft, and flood damage.

Top Tip - Help! The Insurance Company Won't Pay Out

This can be a problem if you've chosen a less-than-reliable commercial truck insurance company (particularly when medical costs as the result of a truck accident comes into play). In a nutshell, here's the main tactic employed by reluctant insurers and how to get around it.

If you find yourself in a position where an insurer offers a lot less than what is claimed for (usually after weeks of deliberation), they might be using the Three Ds tactic: Delay, Deny and Defend. Essentially, they are hoping you will take the reduced payment for lack of a better option and will carry on performing the three Ds until you do.

The best advice it to stand your ground and make it clear that you're not backing down, and try to communicate solely through writing. In 95% of cases they'll fold, but do be prepared to sue as there is a strong precedent for claimants winning such cases.

How to save money on commercial insurance:

There are some key do's and don'ts for saving money on your insurance, but perhaps the best piece of advice is to be honest (regardless of how tempting it might be to overstate the value of your truck, or ‘forget' a speeding conviction).

  • Get quotes from several companies before you commit to one, and give each of them as much information as you have about your driving histories and your vehicles.
  • Shop around for insurance over the course of the year, but not too much. Many companies appreciate your loyalty with discounts, so there's no point swapping companies every few months for the sake of $20 a year.
  • Ask for a three-year policy, which will fix your premium for three years.
  • Increase your deductibles, or "voluntary excess". The larger your deductibles, the cheaper your insurance will be - but remember you'll have to pay it in the event of an accident or theft. There's very little sense in increasing it if you can't afford it.
  • Pay your insurance up front at the start of the year, rather than paying in installments. This could save you around 15%.
  • Pay by electronic money transfer to avoid costly checking fees.
  • Insure all your vehicles with one company and reap the benefits. Most insurance companies give discounts or incentives to people who insure their whole fleet with them.
  • Run a safety program. Ask your insurer for advice on how to put one together for your business, and you could save more than 10%.
  • A written maintenance plan could save you around 5%, just because they know you're serious about looking after your vehicles.
  • Some truckers overstate the value of their vehicles in the hope that they will get a good deal if anything happened to it. That isn't how it works - your insurance company will see how much it would cost to buy a similar replacement. If you say your truck is worth more than it is, however, you're likely to pay over the odds for your coverage.
  • Remove comprehensive cover from some of your older vehicles. This cover isn't needed and might be costing you more than it's worth.

Top Tip - Giving off a Safe Image Pays Dividends

If you're facing a visit from an insurance agent, it's prudent to spend some extra time sprucing up your truck before an inspection.

Your semi may not be the most infallible vehicle on Earth, but even simple things such as ‘Fire Extinguisher Inside' stickers and getting rid of the old McDonald's wrappers from the dash can enhance your appearance as a conscientious driver. In turn, this could subtly influence the agent inspecting your vehicle to offer lower insurance prices.

The main factors affecting commercial vehicle premiums:

To a degree, it is possible to control some of the critical factors which govern your truck's insurance premiums. The main issues which come into play include:

  • Driving record - how many speeding fines or traffic offences you or your drivers have incurred in recent years.
  • Where your trucks are kept, especially overnight. Riskier areas mean higher premiums.
  • Limit of liability coverage required - see below for a rundown of what you need.
  • Type and radius of operation.
  • Age, condition and safety features of the vehicles.

Top Tip - Don't Obsess Over Finding the Cheapest

By using the advice here, you should end up with a fantastic deal on your truck insurance. However, don't ignore quality of insurance in the hunt for a bargain.

As with most things in life, you get what you pay for and it wouldn't be prudent to end up with an insurer who makes things difficult when it comes to making a claim, no matter how cheap they seem. Be sure to read up on reviews from other customers and make as many queries as you feel are necessary when negotiating a deal before you sign on the dotted line.

ICC authorities and MC numbers

You'll need to get an MC number from your ICC authority before you shift goods across state lines. In order to qualify for one, your bodily injury and property damage insurance coverage will need to meet certain requirements based on tone tonnage of your vehicle and the loads you'll be carrying.

  • For vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of 10,000lb or more:
    • $750,000 for general, non hazardous commodities.
    • $1m for hazardous freight except class A and class B explosives.
    • $5m for class A and class B explosives.
  • Shop around for insurance over the course of the year, but not too much. Many companies appreciate your loyalty with discounts, so there's no point swapping companies every few months for the sake of $20 a year.

Top Tip - Give Them a Nudge

Most insurance companies will fight tooth and nail to receive your business. Make sure you give them the opportunity to do just that.

When it comes to renewing your insurance, it's worth having a casual chat with your current provider and mentioning that you're tempted to shop around. Nine times out of ten your insurer will want to negotiate cheaper premiums in order to keep your policy with them, but do make sure that the coverage is not downgraded as a result.

Why is truck insurance so expensive?

Costly insurance premiums can be the bane of the job, but there is some rationale behind prices.

  • Essentially, trucks themselves are expensive. Your insurance company is at risk of having to replace your whole rig.
  • Trucks are big and heavy, so if you do crash into something it'll generally do quite a bit of damage. More so than if you were in a car.
  • Trucks are three times more likely to be stolen than cars, partly because they're worth more, and partly because they often contain valuable cargo.

Some final top tips

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website (FMCSA) is a fantastic resource for truckers and features all the guidelines and advice you could possibly hope for (to the point of being daunting!)

As mentioned above, it's wise to invest in safety and anti-theft equipment for your vehicle. Things such as front and side-curtain airbags and locking devices can lower premiums considerably, and a tracking device can help authorities find your truck in the event of a theft.

Finding the Cheapest Truck Insurance

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Truck Insurance - Learn How To Protect Your Big, Commercial, Cargo and Tow Trucks With Trucking Insurance, and Ways To Get Cheap Truck Driver Insurance Quotes

Buckling up is not Enough - Secure a Big Truck Insurance

The license to drive affords you to go to different places where your vehicle can take you, to Florida, Illinois, NJ, Maryland, Georgia, even to Australia, but you may need to have your vehicle flown there. Driving a vehicle is not just about mobility, but is also a big responsibility. Failure to observe reasonable care while driving could lead to damage to property or injury to the driver or to another person. The bigger the vehicle you are operating, the bigger the risk for more massive damage and injuries. Driving a truck and other mammoth vehicles is such a huge responsibility, hence driving skills must always be convoyed with extra care and discipline. Sometimes, however, no matter the great care you take, accidents can still unexpectedly happen, where you may just be the victim. Even if your truck is just parked somewhere, it could still get damaged due to vandalism and accidents in the parking lot, or worse it could get stolen. Hence the need for a truck insurance to insure lives, property, the vehicle and its cargo.

Is Paying For A Big Truck Insurance Worth It?

Your heavy truck isn't just big; it is also a big-ticket item, whether purchased brand new or second hand. You must also be familiar with how expensive it is to repair such mammoths. If you figure in an accident, the premium you paid for the truck insurance would be worth every penny, provided that you got a reliable truck insurance provider and the right truck insurance. Depending on the type of insurance you get, it can cover your truck, the trailer of your semi-truck, the cargo you are moving, the property of others, and your medical expenses if you get injured or if another persons(s) get injured during the accident. But who wants to get into an accident? Even if you are completely covered, always drive safely.

Getting Ample Protection From the Right Commercial Truck Insurance

Do not think that once you have a truck insurance, everything is covered. Not all forms of insurances can cover all types of incidents. Get to know some of these types of truck insurances to help you pick the right policy for you.

Primary Liability Truck Insurance. This most basic type of truck insurance covers the cost of damages suffered by the driver who is proven to be the victim and is not responsible for the accident. This means that if you are the one at fault, your insurance provider will not shoulder all the damages to your truck.

Physical Damage Truck Insurance. You can add this form of coverage to your primary liability insurance to cover for damages that you may have or may not have caused. The amount of coverage will be stated in your policy. You will feel awful for being accidentally responsible for a crash, but you will feel more awful if you would have to pony up for the cost of repair, which can be as colossal as your truck.

Non Trucking Liability Coverage. Most employers provide primary liability coverage that does not cover incidents that may occur while you are off-duty. So if you are not officially transporting a load, you are not protected. You may want to augment your plan with a non trucking liability plan especially if you sideline as an independent owner/operator during your days off at work.

Sometimes, even if an incident happens while on duty, you may still not be able to get your compensation. Learn from the sad fate of Michling, a truck driver who died of a brain hemorrhage after he came back early from work and after telling his wife that he bumped his head while at work. The wife filed against the insurance provider for the insurance claims, but his utterance about what happened to him at work was not honored since it was not considered as excited utterance but just hearsay. In short, the couple did not have evidence that the physical injury happened while at work. So if you figured in an accident and you are not covered for non trucking liability, make sure that you have evidence that it happened while at work.

Freight Night May Turn Into Fright Night If You Don't Get a Tow Truck Insurance

There are a number of daredevils who dare to drive even without insurance. You must know that it is illegal, and a freaky accident could be your eye-opener to the dumbest thing you have ever done. What will you do if the car you were towing suddenly slides down from your truck bed, then collides with the vehicle behind you? It will cost you the earth to pay for the damaged car you dropped, and the vehicle it crashed into. Even if you can still salvage them, the repairs would sill be expensive. What more if they are totally wrecked? Compare this cost to the cheap rates that insurance brokers have offered you. You may even have to spend to repair damages that your own truck may have also sustained. And since driving a truck without insurance is illegal, you may also end up in jail. Wake up from this nightmare, contact your agent and get a tow truck insurance at once.

Get Truck Cargo Insurance Before Your Cargo Could Become a Heavy Financial Load

The Carrier Act of 1935 requires truck cargo insurance for motor truck carriers that are legally liable for the damage, destruction and other loss of the property of their clients that are being hauled. So that when there are broken contents, missing packages, ruined articles or stolen items, the policy can take care of the responsibility of paying for these. The amount of responsibility that the transporter carries must clearly be determined by the shipper and transporter prior to hauling. This amount is usually specified in a contract, published tariffs or through the bill of lading. However, this important detail is often forgotten by the two parties. You can buy this policy with a maximum load limit per vehicle. Do not attempt under-insuring your shipment because in case you need to make a claim, your protection becomes limited and may not be enough to cover for the damages. The Western Truck Insurance Services, Inc. offers this type of policy, called the Motor Truck Cargo policy. It operates in many states in the west and southwest, such states as Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Nevada, , Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, as well as in other parts of the country, like in New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina and Wisconsin.

To help you secure this type of policy, seek for good insurance agents who can customize your policy according to your operations and risks by obtaining pertinent details from you. You can also tailor your policy to include provisions to protect the shipment while it is in your warehouse as you consolidate it with other cargoes or when it cannot be delivered the same day.

Trucking Insurance For The Food Service Vehicle

Food is another item that a trucking company may be hired to haul, or perhaps the food company itself maintain its own fleet of food service vehicles. Talk about truck to transport food catering for a wedding, bustaurants, trailer kitchens and other hot trucks, that are common in New York, where food can be prepared as customers order, or a refrigerated truck to haul delicate food items such as ice cream. There are insurance agencies and companies that provide coverage for trucks transporting these comestibles. One such company is Progressive Commercial which insures not just dump trucks, tow trucks, bus, delivery van, pickup, but as well as ice cream trucks, catering truck, and many other types of vehicles. When choosing a food truck insurance, make sure that it is tailored according to your needs. Do not accept a policy that can also be used by a plumbing or electrical contractor and make sure that you do not pay for premium that exceeds your profit for that particular event that you are catering for.

Understanding Short Term Truck Insurance

As the name suggests, short term truck insurance is a type of insurance that provides coverage for your truck for a short period, usually 30 days. This temporary insurance comes in handy during instances when you have not gotten a more permanent insurance. Examples of this are when you have just recently bought your truck from a dealer or from someone else and you have not decided on your permanent insurance yet; and while you are still looking around for work as an independent operator that is why you have not gotten a permanent coverage yet. During these intervening times, accidents could still happen, and it is best to always be covered. Insurance for the truck that you rent may also be, in a sense, considered as short term truck insurance since the policy is effective only within the duration of the rental period.

Get a Truck Driver Insurance - You Need Protection Too!

Your life is more important than your truck. You yourself must also be insured. Think about the cost your family may have to shoulder for your hospitalization, medications, rehabilitation and recovery, if you figured in an accident. Worse, who will support your family financially if you lose your life in an accident. Therefore you must secure insurance for yourself. Besides, insurance for truck drivers is also required by law. Your rate is contingent on factors like your driving skill level, driving history and where you operate your haul business.

How To Get Cheap Truck Insurance Quote

If you search online for info, you will find a host of truck insurance agencies, such as the Truck Insurance Mart, Inc., that can singly provide you with quotes from different truck insurance carriers. Their services eliminate the need for you to visit or phone multiple insurance agents. Some sites can give you a quote if you simply type in some details that can affect the rate. A truck insurance quote can be swayed by several factors including your age, driving history, other health related issues such as if you are alcoholic, your area of operation and others. One way to get a discounted quote is by completing a driving program which trains you to steer clear of common kinds of semi-truck accidents, such as rear-end collision, roll under accidents and accidents that happen while changing lanes. Shop around before you buy a truck insurance as the rates could substantially differ among different companies. Examples of these companies are the Associated Truck Insurance Services in San Antonio Texas, the American Truck Insurance Services LLC, and the Farmers Insurance Group of Companies in Los Angeles, CA. Pick the one which fits not just your budget, but your specific requirements as well.

Antique, Farm and Fire Truck Insurance Quotes

You cannot get truck insurance from all insurance companies since it is a specialty insurance product. It is even harder to get insurance for a fire truck and other vehicles that have special use, such as ambulances, and police cars. If you can find a company that covers them, don't be surprised with the ridiculous quotes they give you. Computing for an accurate valuation of an old fire truck proves difficult for insurers because of the absence of established book values for such type of vehicles.

You may also be facing the same problem when getting insurance for your antique truck. However, there are companies that offer affordable insurance for classic vehicles especially if their use is only for exhibition is not driven for long mileage. This means to say that your truck gets lesser exposure to risks.

Securing an insurance for a farm truck is another story as they are only optional in many states. However, many farmers opt to get insurance to protect such valuable assets to their livelihood.

If you drive a truck, getting a truck insurance is a wise maneuver not just because it is a legal requirement, but because it also protects you, your assets, the properties of your clients and others as well as the lives of other people that you meet along the highway.