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Insurance Renewal Tips for Trucking Fleets

It's no secret that the insurance market for trucking companies has been tough over the past several years. We hear fleets frequently ask what they can do to get the best possible rate when it comes time for policy renewal. Unfortunately, there's no 'quick fix' to get a discounted rate or be viewed as a safe fleet by your insurance company. But all is not lost! There are things you can do to set yourself up for long-term success when it comes to safety and your overall standing with your insurance provider.

We recently spoke with Travis Busch, Director of Transportation Safety & Analytics at Kunkel & Associates, to get his advice on what fleets can do to be more 'insurable.' In this blog, we'll cover the common issues insurance providers see from fleets during insurance renewal, and the opportunities fleets have to boost their standing with their provider.

Fleet Safety Data

According to Busch, a common issue he sees among fleets is the misuse of safety data. Most fleets are using safety technologies to monitor driving behavior, yet not enough are using the information collected from these technologies to their advantage when it comes time for renewals.

When you meet with your insurance provider, Busch suggests analyzing safety data so you can discuss your loss history, safety scores, and trends in driver-related incidents. Having this information available for your provider shows them you're being proactive in your fleet safety approach. And with this information, you can make informed decisions to improve in areas you're coming up short.

Busch told us that insurance providers consider how a fleet is 'trending' during the renewal process. If a fleet has good overall safety scores but they've seen an uptick in safety incidents reported in recent months, their provider could use that against them. Conversely, if a fleet has an average or below-average safety score but has recently shown a steady decrease in incidents, it will tell the insurance provider that the fleet is heading in the right direction.

That leads to benchmarking…another tool to help your efforts. Tracking your fleet safety scores with other similar operations is something Busch says all fleets should be doing. It can help companies gauge how well their safety programs are compared to others in the industry.

Policy vs. Process

Less is more when it comes to safety policies. Be concise. The way they're written and followed by management is noticed by insurance providers, auditors, and the court system. Two common problems Busch sees when it comes to policies are: 1) they follow the minimum requirements set by their insurance provider or 2) they are too lengthy, rules are too stringent, and/or they need to be updated. Both policy characteristics present several red flags.

If your fleet follows the bare minimum policies your insurance provider expects, that's not enough. When they asses your risk level, they'll wonder why you aren't doing more to address safe practices within your fleet. Think of it as receiving a C on a test in school instead of an A. Technically, C is a passing grade, but a C doesn't show strong performance.

On the other hand, if your policies are pages long with specific rules the company and drivers need to follow, that's also a problem. If you have a 100-page policy book, will your drivers actually read all of the material and comprehend everything that is there? After a driver reads through it all, they'll likely have forgotten what was covered a few pages ago. Often these policies were written years ago, and some of the material may be outdated.

A better approach is to have policies that cover general rules along with an established and documented process on how the company handles policy violations as they come up. Actions speak louder than words. For example, a fleet safety committee can evaluate a policy violation and consider all the factors about the incident and driver history to determine the proper way to handle the problem. Not every incident warrants a 'yes or no' type ruling.

Let's say, for example, you have a driver with 2 million accident-free miles with your company and that driver is considered your 'top driver.' If that driver is involved in their first serious incident, say cited for reckless driving, and you have a strict policy that says that the driver must be terminated, what do you do? Do you fire the driver that, up until then, had been a shining star and lose one of your most productive drivers? Or do you keep them on and go against the policy? It's a lose-lose situation because you either lose one of your best drivers or ignore your policy which might be questioned when you meet with your insurance agency.

By having a process in place to evaluate violations, you can determine the appropriate action that should take place. You won't be locked in. Not only can this help with operations, but it's also something your insurance provider and other agencies want to see.

When you meet with your provider to go over renewals, it's much better to have proof of actions you take to address safety. If you're involved in a court case, a defense attorney will say it's easier to defend you if you can talk about what you're doing to be safe rather than defend against a policy document. The same can be said for fleets that follow the minimum guidelines from insurance companies. A jury would wonder why you aren't doing more to prevent safety incidents from happening.

Driver Training

There is a lot of free content available that fleets are using to help train their drivers. According to Busch, several insurance providers have resources fleets can use in their training programs. Many fleets are also finding some videos on YouTube that are helpful in teaching drivers skills and information they need to know. If you do a Google search on specific types of training, all sorts of results will populate. While some of the content you find online or on YouTube is good, there's a lot of content that isn't, so safety managers need to compare and contrast. Bottomline: check for quality first.

That said, one of the biggest problems fleets have with using these free resources is that it can be difficult to document the training you're assigning drivers. If you assign drivers videos on YouTube to watch and there's no documentation on when they watched and/or don't have a follow-up activity, such as a quiz, to document that they retained the information, what's the point?

When you meet with an insurance provider, they want to see proof of training and documentation that drivers are being assigned, completing, and passing course material. If you're selected for a safety audit or find yourself in a courtroom, you'll be asked about your training program. If you can't show documentation of your training program, an auditor or judge will have to assume drivers aren't being properly trained. That won't help your case, and it might come across that safety isn't a top priority.

Always remember: document every aspect of your driver training program and have proof drivers comprehend the information that is taught. Online training providers, like CarriersEdge, can make that process easy.

Company Culture

Good company culture is vital to how safely a fleet operates. Many fleets claim they have open-door policies and know drivers on a first-name basis, but do they actually practice what they preach? Often the answer is no. Fostering meaningful relationships with your drivers and understanding their needs is essential. From the top company executive to drivers, everyone needs to have the same level of understanding of what's expected regarding safety. Driver surveys are a great way to understand what's working and what isn't when it comes to a variety of driver-related topics. If you do them, take the results to heart. Use the information to better your company. You're much more likely to retain quality, safe drivers if you create a company culture where drivers want to be. If you don't, you'll be in a constant cycle of hiring new drivers.

Now, what about 'new' drivers? When you hire them, make sure there's a level of flexibility in the training they receive during the orientation process. A driver with 30 years of experience should know all the basics that an entry-level driver might need to learn. Evaluate each driver and work with them individually to ensure they're receiving the right type of training.

As many fleets will attest, it's been a tough insurance market for the last several years. While there's no quick fix to get better insurance rates, there are several things you can do to put yourself in a better situation long-term when you meet with your insurance provider. To learn more about what you can do to be more 'insurable,' check out our full webinar discussion with Travis Busch.