Insurance companies are increasingly forcing American truckers to choose between their privacy or access to affordable insurance.
Faced with mounting losses on commercial auto insurance policies, insurers are resorting to invasive monitoring technology to keep track of truck drivers and reduce costs, according to The Wall Street Journal.
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Growing loses have caused the commercial auto insurance industry, which lost an estimated $716 million before taxes on policies in 2016, to raise premiums dramatically. The losses are apparently the result of increasingly crowded roads and the higher rates of distracted driving that have accompanied the proliferation of smart phones.
An influx of inexperienced drivers hired during the recent economic recession has also contributed to an increase in accidents, which leaves insurers on the hook for high value settlements.
Premium increases have ranged from low single digit percentages to as much as 30 percent per year, with some insurers halting certain types of coverage altogether. Despite rising premiums, insurers are still losing money as costs totaled nearly $112 for every $100 of premium they collected last year, according to researchers at investment management firm Conning Inc. However, many insurers have proven more willing to renew coverage if trucking companies agree to install in-cab cameras to monitor drivers. As a result, many commercial trucking companies have adopted the cost saving technologies.
Beitler Trucking Inc. President Quentin Beitler installed onboard video cameras in 45 of his trucks in an effort to keep his insurance costs down. Beitler told The WSJ he was “looking for any technology that would help bring [his] claims down.”
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Lawyers have increasingly used on board cameras in courts as they can record the moments before an accident, which in many cases exonerates the driver. The issue of driver liability has become more critical in recent years as jury awards have increased dramatically.
Todd Reiser, vice president of the transportation practice for the Lockton Companies, described the issue of increased severity of jury awards in truck accidents on a conference call in December 2016.
“A claim that might have been $1 million 10 years ago is unfortunately now at $3 million, $4 million, and even in excess of $5 million,” Reiser said according to FleetOwner. “That was very rare back in the early 2000s. Now we’re seeing significant penetration into the $5 million layer — that’s causing a lot of concern.”
In addition to on-board cameras, some companies have adopted technology that prevents drivers from texting, checking their email and using certain apps.
Ellis Lowe, human-resources manager at Estes Services, told The WSJ he recently had his drivers install a program called CellControl on their smart phones in an effort to reign in premium costs. He claims these costs have risen 20 percent over the last two years. The program can detect if a vehicle is in motion and blocks the driver’s phone from making calls, using apps, texting and emailing unless the vehicle is stopped.
Chad McGee, a principal at insurance broker Pritchard & Jerden, told The WSJ trucking companies were initially resistant to the invasive technology because they felt like it was “Big Brother watching.” He said the companies have largely come around on the issue as premiums have increased.
Republished by permission. Original here.
Semi Truck Photo via Shutterstock
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