EOBRs: Coming Soon to a Truck Near You?

Do you use an EOBR? It sounds like something out of a futuristic movie, but for many truck drivers an electronic on board recording device (EOBR) is simply part of their day to day, helping track hours of service, providing information to their employer about safety, and sometimes even offering navigational help. Since the devices first came to be, government agencies have been interested in using EOBR to improve safety records and cut down on violations.

What Are EOBRs?

Electronic on board recording devices (EOBR) aren’t a new technology at all. As early as 1990, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended the mandatory use of EOBRs on all heavy duty trucks. Since that time several attempts have been made to require these electronic log books for all commercial drivers although as of now these attempts have been largely unsuccessful and highly controversial.

If you aren’t familiar with the term EOBR, you might be more familiar with some of the other terms used to describe these devices. They may also be called ELDs (Electronic Logging Devices), e-logs, paperless logs, etc. The terms may be different, but deep down they are all basically the same devices.

Recent Proposed Regulations for EOBR

The latest big push for mandatory EOBR devices came this last March with the FMCSA proposing that ELDs be a requirement for interstate commercial bus and truck companies to improve HOS (hours of service) compliance. Speaking of the proposal Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said, “Today’s proposal will improve safety while helping businesses by cutting unnecessary paperwork – exactly the type of government streamlining President Obama called for in his State of the Union address… By leveraging innovative technology with Electronic Logging Devices, we have the opportunity to save lives and boost efficiency for both motor carriers and safety inspectors.”

The FMCSA believes that instituting electronic logs would reduce yearly fatalities by 20 and injuries by 434. Opponents to the proposed regulations fear that electronic logging could result in driver harassment and will lead to unnecessary expenses that won’t necessarily improve safety. The proposed devices would need to be integrated with the truck engine and be tamper resistant.

Electronic Logs: Will They Improve Safety?

While controversy remains over whether or not electronic logging devices are worth the investment, many large companies have chosen to adopt them voluntarily. For large organizations these devices can help companies stay on top of problems and provide better service to both their drivers and their customers. By using these logs to improve driver safety, companies can also reduce their insurance rates, often saving a substantial amount of money.

What do you think about electronic logs? Are you currently using them?

Paperwork Fraud: Don’t Be A Victim

Outside of the industry, people think that truckers deal primarily with large objects and various types of freight. However, when it comes down to it, you probably spend a lot more hands on time with various types of paperwork. Sure, the freight’s there, but it’s the paperwork that accompanies this freight that you rely on. Is your paperwork in order? Falsified paperwork is more common than you might think and is a contributing cause of theft in the trucking industry. Protect yourself this holiday season by staying alert and by making sure your paperwork is always legitimate.

Bills of Lading

Bills of lading are designed to protect both truckers and shippers alike. They outline the terms of your contract with the shipper and ensure that both parties are aware of charges, delivery requirements, etc. While bills of lading often protect, fraudulent versions can actually do a lot of harm.

Bill of lading fraud can take on many faces, but a few common manifestations include:

·         Fraudulent Release Forms- A fraudulent bill of lading or auction release form has the potential to trick the holder of an item into releasing it to an unauthorized party. While not a big problem for truckers, this is something shippers should pay close attention to. Carefully check all documents before releasing a shipment. Make sure paperwork is in order and compare forms (color, style, paper type, etc.) to known legitimate forms looking for counterfeits. 

·         Signed as Delivered Without Delivery- A signed bill of lading is your key to payment once a load has been delivered; some truckers falsify these forms to get payment on loads not delivered. Often these falsified forms are processed through factoring companies or quick pay programs so the payment is made before the fraud can be discovered.

·         Incorrect Forms- Protect yourself when picking up loads by carefully checking the bill of lading before leaving the pickup site. The items loaded on your truck should match the inventory listed on your documentation. Check serial numbers, etc. to ensure that you have the right load and accompanying paperwork. Any agreed upon terms should be listed on your bill of lading. Pay attention to any restrictions on delivery, especially those that could result in docking of pay (guaranteed delivery dates, etc.). Taking pictures of your load (especially any previous damage) and paperwork can help to protect you should trouble arise.

Certificates of Insurance

Is your insurance up to date? Falsified certificates of insurance can be a big problem in the transportation industry and are something we all should look out for. We make it easy for you to provide legitimate copies of your insurance information using our simple online tools.  

Permits and Other Documents

Permits are another paperwork area with the potential for fraud and theft. Make sure that you file for permits yourself or that you use a reputable permit company. Familiarize yourself with the permits needed for each state and with the way each permit should look. Make sure the information listed on your permits is correct from load size and weight to truck information to commodity information.

As we enter the holiday season make sure to keep yourself safe from paperwork fraud by staying aware. Make sure your paperwork is in order and have a happy, safe and productive holiday season this year.

 

Occupational Accident- Who Will Pay Your Medical Bills If You Get Hurt On The Road?

When you get hurt at work, Worker’s Comp comes to the rescue covering medical bills, rehab expenses and more. This important insurance coverage is paid for by your employer. However, in an industry like trucking where many are self-employed owner operators or lease operators, a work injury can prove disastrous. Who pays for your medical bills if you don’t qualify for Worker’s Comp and are hurt at work? How can you protect yourself and your family?

Worker’s Comp- How Does It Work?

Worker’s Compensation is a special state regulated program designed to protect employees and employers alike. Employers purchase work comp insurance which is used to pay for lost wages, medical care, etc. should an employee get hurt on the job.  That insurance  protectsemployers from lawsuits and provides for the injured employee and their family.

While Worker’s Comp policies are often required for employers, they are rarely required for self-employed people or independent contractors. This means a great number of truckers are unprotected when it comes to workplace injuries. Those looking at policies for themselves are often unable to obtain coverage or may find the rates to be out of budget.

Transportation inherently carries a lot of risks. You can be injured while tying down a load, slip and fall on icy pavement or fall while climbing in to your truck’s cab. Injuries can happen at jobsites, pick-ups or drop-offs and anywhere in between. Being on the road puts you at an increased risk for vehicular accidents. Just like any job, working in transportation has its risks. If you are an owner operator or a motor carrier with lease operators, you may want to consider purchasing an insurance policy to protect yourself.

Occupational Accident Coverage

While owner operators and lease operators often are unable to obtain Worker’s Comp insurance, they do still have options. One popular and affordable choice is occupational accident coverage. These policies often provide similar protection to a Worker’s Comp policy, but are available to those working for themselves or that have independent contractors working for them.

Every policy is different, but many occupational accident policies cover things like:

·         Accidental Death or Dismemberment

·         Survivor’s Benefits

·         Medical Expense Benefits

·         Disability Benefits (Temporary or Continuous)

·         And More.

We can help you find a policy that works for your situation and budget. Let our knowledgeable staff help you better protect yourself and your family. When accident strikes, we want you to be able to pay your medical expenses, bills and recovery costs.

If you get hurt on the job, are you protected? Let us help you find the occupational accident policy you need.

Will the Changes to Freight Broker Requirements Impact You?

Brokers and freight forwarders play a valuable role in the transportation industry often acting as the go between for carriers and consumers. They match willing trucks with loads that need hauling and help get goods from one end of the country to the other. Since those doing the shipping are often unaware of the intricacies and difficulties involved in transportation, brokers and freight forwarders save carriers a lot of trouble by helping ensure everything is ready to go. As any busy trucker knows you don’t have time to spend hours on the phone; brokers and freight forwarders deal with the customer so you can focus on driving (and getting there safely).

The FMCSA recently made changes to the requirements for freight brokers. Will these changes have any impact on you?

Freight Brokers Must Hold $75,000 Surety Bond

Beginning Oct. 1, 2013 the amount of bond a freight broker must hold increases to $75,000, up from $10,000. This is a big increase and will primarily impact small and new brokers. Group surety bonds are not currently allowed, but the FMCSA may revise this after evaluation.

Definition of Broker Changed

Another big change is a change in wording redefining broker as a person that arranges the moving of freight for a fee. The new law specifically prohibits motor carriers from brokering loads unless they are registered brokers. If you arrange for loads to be moved, you must register as a broker, even if it’s just a few loads on the side. Enforcement for this provision might take time to develop as it is difficult to determine how many motor carriers also broker loads.

Motor carriers that want to register as brokers should file an OP-1 Form with the FMCSA. Include your US DOT number, but leave the MC number blank. The FMCSA issues a separate MC number for brokering authority.

Actionable Changes You Can Make

The new laws mean changes for the transportation industry. Here are a few changes you might want to make in accordance with the new laws:

  •  Avoid accepting loads from unregistered brokers.
  •  Register with the FMCSA as a broker if you currently broker loads.
  •  Increase your bond amount if you are a registered broker.

How Will These Changes Affect You?

The full results of this change are yet unknown. It may result in less brokering fraud since it will be more difficult to start up a new operation. Bond premiums will be higher and more difficult to obtain. Freight rates may also increase since the new bond requirements will be more expensive, thus pushing up the cost of transportation. This may also lead to less competition and fewer brokers, especially small brokers. With fewer small brokers large brokers may increase profits and decrease payouts to owner operators. Larger bonds will provide more protection for non-payment. Only time will reveal the full impact of these changes on those across the transportation industry. The one thing we do know however is that these changes will make an impact.

While the FMCSA’s recent changes primarily deal with freight brokers, they will have an effect on all involved in transportation. How do you see these changes impacting you?

Report Claims Quickly and Get the Most from Your Policy

Crunch… it’s a sound no one likes to hear, especially when you’re driving a commercial vehicle.

Unfortunately, accidents do happen, even to the best drivers. In 2011 the FMCSA noted more than 5 million accidents reported to police with 273,000 involving large trucks. Safety can play a big role in helping you avoid these accidents, and when they do occur, knowing how to properly report your claim could be essential in getting you the most out of your truck insurance policy. When you have a claim make sure you report it quickly and thoroughly.

  Reporting a Claim- The Do’s and the Don’ts

  Do…

  ·         Get as Much Information as Possible– After an accident get as much information as possible. This will make it easier for your insurance company to figure out fault and ensure quick resolution of your case. Get as much information as you can from other drivers and passengers involved. Also make a note of any potential witnesses with their contact information.

  ·         Take Photos– A picture’s worth a thousand words, especially after a truck accident. Take pictures any damage (both vehicle and property), the accident scene (skid marks, vehicle positions, debris, etc.), the area where the accident occurred (road signs and markers) and any identifiers (license plates, insurance cards, etc.).

  ·         Contact the Police– While police may not come out to every accident scene, it is always a good idea to advise them of an accident, even if it seems minor.

  Don’t…

  ·         Delay– Report claims as soon as possible after an accident or event. Many truck insurance providers require that claims be reported within 24 hours or a higher deductible will apply. Having to pay double your deductible can greatly increase the cost of an accident. Save money by contacting us as soon as possible after an accident. We’ll help you deal with your insurance company.

  ·         Don’t Admit Fault– Never admit fault for accident, even if you think you might have caused it. Without understanding the complete picture behind the events, you don’t know whose fault an accident is. It’s possible that another driver was drinking or talking on the phone and is responsible. Don’t admit fault to other drivers or the police.

Do You Understand Your Policy?

  Every truck insurance policy is different, but understanding the details of yours is essential to getting the most out of your insurance, especially in an accident.  What’s your deductible? What are your requirements when reporting claims? If you don’t thoroughly understand your policy, take a few minutes and review it. The last thing you’ll want to deal with after an accident is trying to figure out your insurance coverage, although we’re happy to help if you need assistance.

Helping with claims is one of the many services we offer our customers here at Western Truck Insurance Services. We stay on top of your claim from the moment you report it to us, making sure you know what’s going on with your insurance company every step of the way. We only work with truck insurance providers that we trust and you can be sure that we’ll ask the right questions, get the best information and clearly relay any concerns to your insurance company. When we help you process claims you’ll know what’s happening, who’s handling what and how your needs are being met. Accidents are no fun, but with Western Truck Insurance Services by your side, they are a lot easier to handle.

  If it’s been awhile since you reviewed your coverage, give us a call. We can make sure your coverage is the best fit for your situation and give you a truck insurance quote for great coverage from some of the top truck insurance companies.

 

What Does the Future Hold for the Trucking Industry?

With ever rising fuel prices, stagnant cargo rates and increasing regulation, you might be worried about the state of the trucking industry. Are you going to be able to earn enough to support your family? What does the future hold? While we don’t have a crystal ball and can’t predict the future, careful analysis of the industry can shed some light on what changes you can expect in the coming months.

A series of recent investment reports about the trucking industry by Stiefel provide some valuable insights into what you may see in the weeks ahead. Let’s take a look:

·         52% of Truckload Carriers Expect Volumes to Grow Over the Next 12 Months– Increased volume means more work for truckers and higher rates, a very good thing for the industry.

·         CSA Scores Matter-80% of those surveyed indicate that some of their clients care about the safety scores of their drivers. Safe driving will not only help you to impress with your CSA scores, but also obtain the lowest possible rates on your insurance.

·         Driver Turnover Expected to Increase– As the economy continues to recover the turnaround for drivers is expected to increase from 100% to 150%, the level where it was before the recession. Truck drivers tend to switch between industries and as construction and other industries need more workers, driver turnover is expected to increase.

·         Sleep Study Requirement Could Lead to Shortages– If the FMCSA’s proposed sleep study requirement for high BMI drivers passes, a real driver shortage could result. Half of commercial licensed drivers have a BMI over 30. Sleep testing costs as much as $5,000. Many truckers will likely switch industries rather than submit to the testing. Fewer drivers could mean more money for those that remain.

·         Environmental Regulations Have Biggest Impact on Owner Operators– Potential new EPA regulations for fuel mileage could have a big impact on owner operators and smaller fleets. Increasing mileage will require big equipment changes. Smaller operations generally purchase equipment that can do multiple jobs; efficiency requirements may lead to highly specialized equipment that can only do one or two jobs.

·         Increased Expenses– The newer more efficient engines require more frequent maintenance. 40% of fleets reported increased expenses with the new 2010 engines while only 10% noted a decrease.

·         More Owner Operators Expected– Currently half of those receiving operating authority from the government are owner operators. As lease agreements become less lucrative, people decide to go at it alone. Stiefel expects many more owner operators in the coming months.

·         Less Reliance on Brokers– Carriers are choosing to use freight brokers less often. Brokers are most commonly used by companies making less than $25 million annually.

·         ELogs Becoming More Common-ELogs are becoming more common. Currently 42% of larger fleets are using them compared with 12% of smaller fleets. Some drivers are choosing to leave the industry rather than comply with these logs since they unveil unsafe driving practices fairly effectively.

·         Driver Shortages May Get Worse– While unemployment rates still hover at about 7.5%, in the trucking industry there are shortages of workers and they are expected to get worse. Increased regulation may lead to more drivers leaving the industry. Overall there are shortages in many areas in the industry: safety people, mechanics, drivers, etc.

What do you predict will happen in the coming months for the trucking industry? How will these predictions impact the way you drive? While the industry is constantly changing, one thing will always remain the same: we strive to bring you the best rates on great insurance.

SMS and SAFER Scores: An Introduction

The importance of safety in trucking can’t be overstated. Your life and the lives of others depend on your ability to safely get from Point A to Point B or anywhere else you may travel. Safety records, like your SMS or SAFER scores, help measure adherence to important safety practices. These scores provide an important snapshot into your safety record and can have a big impact on your insurance rates.

SMS vs. SAFER

SMS stands for Safety Measurement System. It is an on-road safety and performance measurement system utilized by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The system was designed to change and adapt as new technologies and measurement guides are established. It is updated regularly (keep updated about any changes by checking the FMCSA website). Check SMS reports here.

SAFER stands for Safety and Fitness Electronic Records and is a system that provides safety information to both the trucking industry and the public online. You can search company safety snapshots free of charge using a company name, DOT number or MC number. Snapshots provide basic information about inspections, violations and crashes. More detailed information is available for a free by requesting a SAFER company profile.

How Are Scores Determined?

Both SMS and SAFER measure and report safety violations, but they do so a little differently. For example you are able to access a great deal of information about motor carriers and their violations for free using the SMS search option. You can find out not only how many violations are on a record, but also the specifics of these violations. SMS rates violations by severity. A parking violation might carry a weight of one while a more serious violation like inadequate brakes will be more serious. On the other hand SAFER only provides basic information in its free carrier snapshots.

Any time a violation is reported it leaves a negative mark on your record that can be seen by potential clients, employers, insurers, etc. Safer drivers are more appealing and a smaller risk and in turn will typically receive lower rates on insurance. Too many violations can result in penalties, fines and investigations.

SMS reports include information in a variety of BASIC categories including:

·         Unsafe Driving

·         Hours of Service Compliance

·         Driver Fitness

·         Controlled Substances and Alcohol

·         Vehicle Maintenance

·         Hazardous Materials Compliance

·         Crashes

How to Check Your Score

Knowing what your reports look like is essential to protecting your safety reputation. Motor carriers should regularly check their reports for accuracy. Keeping safety on your mind and striving to have a clean safety record will help you to improve your driving and possibly even lower your insurance rates. You can check your scores online from the FMCSA website. Check SAFER reports here and SMS reports here.

Correcting Errors

As you check your reports look for errors. The SMS results are based on state reported crash and inspection data. If you find an error you can report it using a portal known as DataQs. You can report errors or concerns for investigation.

Here at Western Truck Insurance Services we want you to Travel with Care and that means driving safely. Not only will safe driving help you save money on your insurance, it will also help you to make it home safely after a long journey on the road. Keep checking back and future posts will teach you some tips for improving your safety scores.

General Liability – What is General Liability, Who Needs It, What does it Cover?

A form of Insurance designed to protect Owners and Operators’ businesses from a wide variety of liability exposures.  These exposures could include liability arising out of accidents resulting from the premises or the operations of an insured, products sold by the insured, operations completed by the insured, and contractual liability.

General Liability insurance is the first major layer of protection for claims of bodily injury or property damage against your business.  General Liability covers you, but it also covers many others involved in your business, such as:

  • If you have a joint venture or partnership, all of your partners, members and their spouses are protected if they are sued for something they do in an official capacity related to your business
  • If your business is a corporation, your policy covers all of your business executive officers, stockholders and directors while they are acting in their official capacities
  • If you have subsidiaries, your policy liability coverage extends to any subsidiary where you own at least 50 percent of the stock
  • Your employees are also protected from claims that result from actions they take in their capacity as employees.
  • If you have a written agreement to indemnify a person or organization, such as a vendor, that person or organization would be protected against liability claims for property damage or bodily injury as a result of selling or distributing your products
  • Anyone legally associated with your business, including volunteers working under your direction, are covered for liabilities that result from the work they do for you, and for the use or maintenance of your property that is in their care

What GL Insurance Provides

  • Bodily Injury
    – Covers Medical Costs
    – Loss Of Services
    – Court Awarded Compensation for deaths that result form Injury.
  • Property Damage
    – Physical damage to the property or
    – Loss of use of the property

Coverages

General Aggregate – limit that will be paid during any one policy period.
Occurrence – limit for the sum of damages and medical expenses because of all bodily injury and property damages arising out of any one occurrence.
Products & Completed Operations Aggregate –  limit for damages because of bodily injury and property damage.
Personal & Advertising Injury – limit for the sum of all damages because of all  personal and advertising injury sustained by any one person or organization.
Damage to Rented Premises – limit for damages because of property damage to any one premises while rented to you, or in the case of fire, while rented to you or occupied by you with permission of the owner.
Medical Expenses – limit for all medical expenses because of bodily injury sustained by any one person.

Rating

There are four main ways to rate General Liability:

  • Trucker’s Payroll
  • Gross Receipts
  • Number of Units
  • Area (square feet)

Excess Liability

  • Insurance that is excess over any other insurance, whether it is primary, excess, contingent or on any other basis.
  • Fire, Extended Coverage, Builder’s Risk, Installation Risk or similar coverage for your work
  • Fire insurance for premises rented to you or temporarily occupied by you with permission of the owner
  • Insurance purchased by you to cover your liability as a tenant for property damage to premises rented to you or temporarily occupied by you with   permission of the owner

When this insurance is excess, there will be no duty to defend the insured against any suit if any provider of other insurance has a duty to defend the insured against that suit. If no provider of other insurance defends, we will undertake to do so, but we will be entitled to the insured’s rights against all those providers of other insurance.

  • When this insurance is excess over other insurance, we will pay only our share of the amount of the loss, if any, that exceeds the sum of:
  • The total amount that all such other insurance would pay for the loss in the absence of this insurance
  • The total of all deductible and self-insured amounts under all such other insurance.
  • We will share the remaining loss, if any, with any other insurance that is not described in this Excess Insurance provision.

Truck Accident Claims Reporting and Handling

It seems that one of the more consistent areas of needed improvement for truckers, whether large fleet, small fleet or owner operators, is in the approach to claims reporting. This writer, who actively receives claims, has seen the gambit in claims reporting from well documented detail to virtually no information provided at all.

So what’s the big deal?  Why collect any information at all, especially if there will be a police report available anyway? The answer to these questions is not always obvious to the truck driver who is feeling threatened by the consequences, regardless of whether the accident was the driver’s fault.

Approximately 30% of truck accidents are never reported by truck drivers. Most of those “non-reports” are not-at-fault accidents and the drivers just “presume” the other party will take care of their own damages. Many, however, are the result of a driver either embarrassed about the incident or hopeful it will just disappear. Finally, quite a number of these non reported accidents are the result of the driver just not knowing what to do.

Accident reporting is simple. Just about every insurance company and/or agent provides an accident report form directly to the motor carrier or driver. That form is the basis for collecting information about the accident and all drivers should carry that form in their truck. It is the responsibility of fleet safety personnel to make sure the form is in all trucks and that drivers are continuously trained on how to complete it.

At the time of any collision, fire, theft, or other loss, the driver should take a deep breath and go into, what I call, “the data collection mode”. This should be a non-emotional, fact gathering, state of mind. There should be no admitting or blaming for wrong doing with other parties. The driver should immediately grab the accident report form and begin asking questions and documenting information.

The first, and most obvious, is to assess whether anyone is hurt including the other driver and anyone else involved. Assuming the other driver has not been hurt and can actively participate in obtaining details, he/she should get themselves, all other parties, and the vehicles out of harm’s way if at all possible.

Once safely out of danger, the driver should note the date, time, and specific location of the occurrence on the report form. Also write down the description of the other vehicles involved, license plate numbers, and note how many people were in other vehicles.  Again, document this information on the report form. Before the police arrive, the driver should courteously approach the other parties and invite them to assist by exchanging contact information including name, address, phone numbers, email addresses, and insurance information.   No discussion of who was at fault should occur as that only leads to everyone becoming defensive and uncooperative. If the driver has a camera, or phone equipped with one, it is advisable to take pictures of everything.

After exchanging information, the driver should clearly write out an honest description of what occurred along with a graphic diagram of the incident. Doing so will help everyone visually understand the nature of the verbal and written details. Once this has been completed, the fleet safety manager (if applicable), a representative from the insurance company, and/or the insurance agent should be contacted.

Generally, the biggest stumbling block we run into is with the driver not moving quickly to obtain the above information, and then when police arrive and separate the parties, it’s too late for the driver to obtain the much needed information.

Claims that are reported immediately and with complete information are almost always settled at a lower cost than those that are not reported quickly and with detail. All drivers should make sure they carry the claim report form in their vehicles at all times.    

“Bad Apple” Truck Insurance Brokers

Watch Out for unscrupulous insurance agents/brokers who falsely scare unsuspecting truck operators that their truck insurance is cancelled.   I learned of an incident where a trucker was called by one of these “bad apple agents” and told their insurance policy was not going to be renewed and was being cancelled.   The frightened trucker was smart enough to call his insurance broker to see what was happening and the current broker explained there were no problems.

Be careful who you buy your truck insurance from. There are a bunch of scam truck insurance agents who’ll do or say anything to mislead in order to make a sale.  Check out the agent before you buy insurance!