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Trucking Companies And Truck Drivers: Do You Need Reefer Breakdown Insurance?

Hey neighbor. As a trucking company owner or an independent owner-operator (O/O), keeping your business safe, profitable, and sustainable is a top priority–we get that! But you can’t forfeit necessary coverage to save a few bucks. When it comes to transporting refrigerated items, that’s especially true. 

Running reefer trucks brings a unique set of hazards, regulations, and considerations that you need to weigh carefully when deciding if reefer breakdown insurance is for you. Beyond risks, we’re here to talk about solutions–let’s get into it.

Nail Down the Basics: Primary Liability Insurance

We're always talking about why it’s so important to carry a primary liability insurance policy, and with good reason! Yeah we know we said that reefer insurance is important, but before you take on specific coverages, you’ve got to get your baseline protection in order. A bare minimum of $750,000 will cover bodily injury and/or property damage to third parties. But some clients will demand a higher coverage limit. For them, you’re looking at a primary liability policy of at least $1M. That round number also means that you’re better protected while behind the wheel.

If you’re an O/Os under a permanent lease (LO/O) then the motor carrier you work with will typically provide a primary liability package. But if you’re an O/O with authority, then listen up–this necessary coverage is on you. There are plenty of options to choose from, but don’t get overwhelmed–your friendly neighborhood trucking insurance expert is right here to help.

What is Reefer Breakdown Insurance?

This coverage isn’t new, but since the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act passed in 2011, it’s taken on more importance. That’s because this legislation aims to combat the growing regularity of food-borne illness and other food-safety risks posed from improper refrigeration. As a responsible driver, you want to deliver the absolute best load to your clients. And if something goes wrong, and you can’t, you want protection for yourself and your customer. That’s where reefer breakdown coverage comes in.

Even if you do all the necessary upkeep, things happen, and a reefer unit could malfunction, resulting in spoiled goods, or a load that doesn’t meet standards and so can’t be sold by your client. Without reliable coverage, you could be left footing the bill to replace those goods, not to mention a potential hit to your reputation as a professional. That said, you can’t risk making anyone sick. What to do? 

Reefer insurance to the rescue. This specialized insurance policy can protect against:

  • Spoilage
  • Property damage
  • Physical injuries
  • Lost income

Common products that are covered as losses may include:

  • Refrigerated foods
  • Medical supplies
  • Cosmetics
  • Plants and flowers
  • Other temperature-sensitive goods

As with every insurance policy out there, a claim will need to meet certain criteria for spoilage to be covered. The loss needs to be the result of an equipment or mechanical failure or accident–reefer breakdown insurance isn’t a substitute for good maintenance. It’s also subject to certain exclusions, which is why the following products are often not covered:

  • Frozen foods
  • Tobacco products
  • Meat/poultry/fish/seafood products
  • Pharmaceuticals

Negligence, user error, or delays that result in spoiled or sub-standard products are also typically excluded from coverage. That makes sense. And for a responsible driver (like our customers!) good maintenance is a given. Nonetheless, even though you keep your rigs in great shape, shippers and brokers will typically require this coverage before they’ll ship refrigerated goods with you.

A solid reefer breakdown policy can help to cover the replacement cost of any load that’s lost, up to specific policy limits. It can also pay for disposal or cleanup if necessary, but not for any needed repairs to your truck. If the reefer failure was the result of collision, theft, fire, or vandalism, you’ll also want to have collision and comprehensive coverage in place.

How Much Does Reefer Breakdown Insurance Cost?

Every insurance policy out there can vary in cost, from one policy holder to another. That’s because you’re not just buying a commodity, you’re buying protection from risk, and everyone’s risk level is different. It’s a unique calculation that’s based on your specific situation.

Here are a few factors that can affect the cost of any type of trucking insurance, including reefer breakdown:

  • Ownership status
  • Vehicle type and quantity
  • Driving history and experience
  • Driver age 
  • Claims history
  • Business location
  • Operating radius
  • Downtime storage location
  • Cargo types
  • Business type
  • Coverage limits
  • Deductible amount

As the name implies, reefer breakdown insurance is built to offer coverage for specific situations instead of broad coverage limits, as a general liability policy does. For this reason the required coverage limits aren’t extreme.

Reefer breakdown coverage isn’t required by law, but you’ll typically need it in order to do business. You can generally expect to spend an average of $1,000 - $2,500 on your annual deductible, give or take, for a base policy limit of $100,000. Costs could be higher if the majority of your business includes refrigerated hauling, because you’ll naturally need higher coverage limits. You’ll also want a solid motor truck cargo insurance policy in place for related incidents and for the most robust protection in the face of loss. 

For the most accurate estimate on any policy, your agent will also need to know what your truck is worth. And don’t worry–however your policy premium shakes out, there are always ways to save. Your trusted Insurance For Truckers by Zinc agent can help.

Rely on the Trucking Insurance Experts

Refrigerated truck drivers face all the same risks other truckers do, plus some. If you’re reefer hauling on the regular, you know the pressure is real–those loads need to be delivered on time, and on temperature. But accidents and malfunctions happen. If you’re thinking about adding refrigerated trucks to your fleet, be sure you know what coverages you need to stay safe while also protecting your clients.

At Insurance For Truckers by Zinc our trained group of trucking insurance experts know your industry and the risks you face day in and out. They can help you to decipher coverage options and insurance jargon to track down the right policy for your needs. Together we can get you on the road to protection without compromising profits. Reach out to learn more and request your free quote.

This blog post does not provide insurance advice and is intended for information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional insurance advice from a licensed representative. Never ignore professional insurance advice because of something you have read in this blog post. Contact your licensed representative if you have any questions about your insurance policy.
  • Josh Freet

    ZINC's Contractor Insurance Expert

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