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Understanding Commercial Truck Insurance: What Type of Insurance Does a Trucker Need?

Whether OTR or local, every trucker knows that they need protection while they're out there on the roads. But what if you're missing coverage you need or spending extra cash on unnecessary policies? 

Well we just can’t stand idly by and let that happen -- not while you’re busy hauling loads and keeping the nation running! So we’re here with our comprehensive guide to explain what to look for and think about when you’re weighing your commercial trucking insurance options.

What Is Commercial Truck Insurance?

It’s a simple question, but the answer can be complex. Essentially, commercial trucking insurance is a policy that protects against common and potential trucking risks. But that’s far too basic – let’s do better.

To start with, commercial trucking insurance is an industry-specific, tailored policy. At its core, trucking insurance might be loosely based on auto policies, but it goes far beyond what any traditional commercial auto policy can cover. Your industry has its own quirks, and we at ZINC recognize that.

The general outlines of a commercial trucking insurance policy will also change depending on whether you’re a company or fleet owner, an owner-operator, or an employee of a trucking company. Spoiler: everyone listed there needs some coverage. And whether we’re talking about one truck on the road, or dozens, commercial trucking insurance is still a must. So let’s get down to just what you’ll need in your specific situation to be protected, whether you’re running operations or out on the road in your rig.

Commercial Truck Insurance or Commercial Auto Insurance?

Every truck driver needs protection from the liabilities they face every day on the road. It’s pretty obvious that your typical auto policy will not protect you here, but what about commercial auto coverage

Since driving a commercial truck is far different than using or operating a work van, car, or pickup, special rules and regulations apply. In fact the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires a minimum level of commercial trucking insurance coverage before drivers can ever haul their first official load. That’s how serious this is, and it goes to show just how different and difficult commercial truck driving can be. 

And this bears repeating – no matter where or how much you drive, commercial trucking insurance is a basic requirement to operate legally

What Does Commercial Truck Insurance Cover?

A commercial trucking policy ensures primary liability for a driver. Primary liability insurance is often required as a key part of your trucking license. It makes sure that while you’re out doing your job, the people, vehicles, and other property around you are protected if you’re in an accident and cause damages. 

Primary liability is a necessary first step, but if you’re the owner of a company and looking to get trucks out on the road, you’ll need to add general liability to your policy. This coverage will make sure that should an accident involving your company result in a lawsuit or other serious legal claims against your business, you’ll have the resources needed to handle the situation while still keeping operations moving. 

You’d be covered in the following situations:

Bodily Injury: Whether they arise from a truck-related accident or a slip, trip, or fall incident, the bodily injury provision ensures that medical bills and potential legal fees are covered for third parties.

Damaged Property/Damaged Commodities: General liability insurance will cover damages and repairs if your truck damages someone else’s property. And if a driver delivers commodities to the wrong address, cost and damages are also covered.

Driver Accidents at Delivery Locations: This category takes in an umbrella of situations. But put simply, if a driver causes damage to property at another site, general liability covers it.

Libel, Slander, and False Advertising Claims: If advertising or brand representation leads to a libel, slander, or false advertising lawsuit, general liability coverage can help to pay for legal costs.

Those are a lot of the situations that a truck driver or trucking company could encounter. But we all know that exceptions are often the norm. For more specific risks, specific coverages come into play. 

What Doesn’t Commercial Truck Insurance Cover?

So how does your specific situation fit into the wide world of commercial trucking insurance? While your general liability commercial truck insurance policy covers a lot of what you or your employees will experience out on the road, there are plenty of targeted coverages or endorsements that protect against more specific liabilities and risks. Let’s run through potential coverage options and see how they line up with your needs:

Commercial Auto: This coverage is key if you have a varied fleet of vehicles (i.e. cement trucks, limos, hearses, buses, passenger vans, ice cream trucks) that handle company business.

Workers’ Compensation: Since liability policies won’t cover injury or medical bills for your drivers, this is a good coverage to have so that everyone is protected.

Physical Damage: Your basic policies will cover everyone and everything else on the road, but if your own truck sustains major damage, this policy will kick in to cover repairs. 

Reefer Breakdown: Because refrigerated trucks have unique equipment, they can fall outside of general policies. This specific coverage protects against loss of cargo due to damage from collision or mechanical failures. 

Motor Truck Cargo: Whether cargo is lost or damaged due to accident, disaster, weather events, or a massive traffic jam, this coverage makes up for the loss.

Business Interruption: If damage to a truck or injury to a driver makes it impossible to get your business back up and running, this coverage can make up the difference and cover gaps.

Some additional coverage options worth looking into:

Bobtail: If you’re driving your semi-truck without a load or trailer between jobs, on your way home from dropping a load off, or when using the truck for personal reasons, this coverage protects you in the case of an accident.

Non-Trucking Liability: Whether a load or trailer is attached or not, this coverage protects you from liability in the case of an accident if the truck is used for personal needs and you aren’t under dispatch.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorists: Many drivers don’t carry any or enough insurance, and if they are at fault in an accident involving your truck, you’ll be left picking up what could be a business-ending bill. This coverage will help with what would otherwise be out-of-pocket expenses.

Cyber Liability: Trucking fleets are more readily adopting digital means to schedule, dispatch, and generally run operations, and newer models of trucks are often outfitted with internet connectivity. There are plenty of ins for hackers and bad actors. This coverage provides protection for your company in the event of a breach.

Insurance arrangements and agreements will vary between companies and owner-operators, but just know that this is a vital conversation to have right off the bat. And clearly, some of these coverage options are best held by independent owner-operators, while others would benefit larger fleets. Regardless, there’s a common refrain you’ll hear when discussing coverage options with your insurance agent: “It’s not required, but it’s an added protection and a smart move.”

What Type of Insurance Does a Trucker Need?

Well, it depends. The trucking insurance that will work best for you depends heavily on your specific liabilities. Take a close look at what you haul, how often drivers are using trucks for personal reasons, whether you have a robust cyber protection plan in place, and if you want to offer employees the same protections you give to your clients. If you’re a one-person show, you’ll want to know the risks you could encounter at any given time and what you’ll be on the hook to pay in worst-case scenarios.

You can take chances, but they might cost you. Especially if you’re running a smaller operation, every driver and every truck are vital to getting work done. If you’re an owner-operator, you have your own unique set of risks that could put you out of commission and reduce earnings. In the end, this isn’t about investment and ROI, but how protecting against the normal what-ifs of life on the road will allow you to do your job better and live with peace of mind.

All that said, if you want to have a detailed, serious discussion with one of our ZINC insurance experts before signing up for anything, just contact us. We’re experts in compliance, and can help you know and meet the requirements in this unique industry.

How Much Does Commercial Truck Insurance Cost?

The answer to this burning question has to do more with varying factors than it does with industry standards. One major number to know is the average cost of a commercial truck accident in the United States. According to some industry experts, it can be as high as $59,000 and depending on the company’s size and resources, that amount could sink them. The right insurance is a business-saving must-have.

Just like necessary coverage, commercial trucking insurance costs will vary depending on your specific needs. Some common factors that affect cost are:

  • Driver Age
  • Driving record
  • Type of equipment
  • Age and condition of your equipment
  • Types of cargo hauled
  • State requirements
  • Range of operations
  • Location of the company

All of the above data sets will have their own impact on pricing. And costs can vary, with basic primary liability coverage running less than $300 a year for independent drivers and $5,000-$7,000 for fleet owners. Add in tailored policies to meet specific risks, and the price will reflect that. How much you can afford to pay out-of-pocket is a helpful factor to use when determining whether a coverage option works for you. 

We’re all looking for a deal these days, but here’s a word of caution: when it comes to commercial trucking insurance, “cheap” is shorthand for “not protected.” That said, there are some legit ways to cut down on insurance costs without compromising protection:

  • If you’re a company owner, only hire drivers with impeccable driving records
  • If you’re an independent driver, always drive carefully, even when off duty
  • Offer safe driving seminars for employees
  • Make regular payments or pay in full yearly
  • Raise deductibles
  • Ask about available discounts
  • Know what’s being hauled and check for gaps in coverage

Rely on A Trucking Insurance Specialist

We know, there's a lot of information in this article. When it comes to protecting our truckers, there’s a lot to consider. Filtering through details and lining up risks and liabilities can be tricky to handle on your own, especially while you’re also trying to run a successful business. Tapping into an insurance expert’s knowledge can help streamline the search.

So if you’re unsure of how much liability coverage you should carry or have any other insurance questions, just reach out! Speak with our agents on ZINC’s dedicated Insurance For Truckers team and we can work out the details, ensuring that your professional liabilities are covered from every angle.

Ready to get a quote? Contact us! We'll get you road-ready with the ideal insurance policy for your trucking business. 

  • Josh Freet

    ZINC's Contractor Insurance Expert

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