ABI Transportation Experts Speak: How to Save the MOST Money on Your Commercial Fleet Insurance Rates
Written by Laura Loftus on Thursday, February 28th, 2019
When speaking with clients about their commercial fleet insurance, the most common concern is how to get the lowest insurance rates. About 100% of the customers I speak to daily all have the same goal – they want the lowest insurance rates available and will do whatever it takes to get it. Whether you own a Taxi, Limo, Paratransit or Shared Economy company (peer to peer platform app), it’s a given that you want your commercial fleet insurance coverage at the lowest insurance rates available. What many companies don’t realize, especially start-ups, is that commercial fleet insurance underwriters do quite a bit of digging on your company through a variety of platforms to “check you out” prior to releasing a quote. They read Yelp reviews, they look at your website, they do Better Business Bureau checks – all of it.
There are common mistakes that transportation service companies are repeatedly making that will create doubt in a commercial fleet insurance company. These mistakes actually prevent your broker from being able to find the lowest insurance rates for your company. Most of these companies think they are making business decisions that will guide them toward the lowest insurance rates, and are unaware that their current website or driver pool is actually hurting their chances of achieving the lowest possible commercial fleet insurance rate.
Five common flubs transportation service companies are making that prevent your commercial fleet insurance broker from obtaining the lowest insurance rates possible:
1) Company Website
The first and most common mistake we see from commercial auto risks who are in the “wheels” business as us underwriters call it – is that you over the amount of experience or size of your transportation service company. It is common for commercial fleet insurance underwriters to google your company to pick apart your website. Here are some items you may think are helping your chances at obtaining the lowest insurance rates but are actually red flags to commercial fleet insurance companies:
- Words like “Fast Pick-up” or ‘Delivery in Minutes” – no commercial fleet insurance underwriter wants to see that you are promising rushed services. Rushing = equals unsafe driving behavior.
- Advertising vehicles that are not actually part of your fleet. For example, just yesterday I was helping a 35-car fleet in Portland with obtaining commercial fleet insurance quotes. The list of vehicles they provided were all private passenger type vehicles (meaning seating capacity of 8 or less) – good! But when I searched the company online, they advertised a large shuttle bus and a higher seating capacity van. When I asked the client about this, they those vehicles had been sold and they had no plans to replace them. Keeping your website up to date and only advertising only what you can actually deliver will keep unwanted questions from creeping into the commercial fleet insurance underwriters’ mind. Creating uncertainty is the last thing you want to do with a commercial fleet insurance underwriter when trying to obtain the lowest insurance rates.
- Age of vehicles is important to commercial fleet insurance companies. Publishing a picture of a 30-year-old vehicle is no bueno. Keep your fleet serviced regularly (we recommend every three to four thousand miles and cycle out old units. Newer, cleaner & well-maintained vehicles are not only more desired by clientele (when trying to compete with Uber/Lyft) but also preferred by commercial fleet insurance companies trying to avoid claims due to mechanical defect.
- If you boast 20 years of experience but your LLC was filed three years ago, it creates uncertainty with insurance companies. It’s better to accurately reflect your business as it is now, and not what you want it to be five years from now. Just as there are items to avoid putting on your website, there are points that you should include on your website. It is always a good idea to brag about highly trained drivers and safety training you provide (more on this later). Be sure to note the maintenance you keep up with for your fleet, the background checks the city you operate in mandates and the highest level of driving records required for your drivers. Commercial fleet insurance underwriters like stable fleets with safe drivers. Bottom line, safer risks translates to commercial fleet insurance underwriters offering the lowest insurance rates.
2) Creating a Business Name
This may seem simple enough but for transportation business owners looking to for the lowest insurance rates, people often think that commercial fleet insurance companies give the lowest insurance rates to Limo’s and Non-Emergency Medical risks over a taxi or airport shuttle. While this might be true, cornering yourself into a specific type of transportation in your business name narrows the list of commercial fleet insurance carriers you are eligible for. Many markets write only taxis or only limos. So, if you file your business name with the Secretary of State as Laura’s Taxi & Limo Service, LLC. – it could possibly make you ineligible for a limo commercial fleet insurance program because they don’t insure taxis and vice versa – even if your unit type meets their requirements. When talking with clients, I always say it’s best to be general about the transportation type within the name of their business, especially as market conditions change. You may be heavy in taxi trips one year but then obtain a paratransit contract and do more of that the following year. The more years of favorable loss history (loss runs) you can provide, the better chance you have at obtaining the lowest insurance rates. Choosing a business name that is general such as Laura’s Transportation Service, LLC. allows you flexibility to transform and evolve your business as the industry demands change.
3) Loss Control is Everything
Underwriters give commercial fleet insurance at the lowest insurance rates to companies with low levels of paid claims. Even in a hard insurance market, with rates rising for the good guys too, you can expect to pay more for commercial fleet insurance if you’re prior insurance companies have paid a lot in claims. Here are some suggestions in tightening loss control for your transportation service company:
- Hire a full-time loss control or driver manager who will enforce a safety culture. Doing this, will lower the frequency and severity of claim payouts and put your transportation service company in a better position to obtain the lowest insurance rates. This person should be in charge of overseeing the overall safety of your company. Managing and coaching your drivers is the key to a successful transportation service company. You are only as good as your worst driver.
- Invest in cameras that capture not only accidents but also driver analytics. This type of camera system will allow you to review driver behavior and correct bad habits before they cause an accident. We like to say this method is similar to that of a professional athlete. How do they improve? They watch their game film and correct bad habits. Driving professionally is the same. The more you do it, the more comfortable you get and having drivers watch themselves reduces risky behavior dramatically. Additionally, it’s a known fact that many commercial fleet insurance claims are paid because of he said/she said situations. Having accidents on camera is the best way to know who exactly was at fault and exonerate innocent drivers.
- Hold weekly safety huddles and or monthly meetings. Review the data and claims that have occurred recently and talk to your drivers about how they could have been prevented.
- Commit to investing in annual defensive driving training for your drivers. This annual reminder to drivers will ensure that bad habits are addressed and give each driver a time to reflect on their own performance.
- Implement a reward program for safe drivers. Giving an incentive, even if it’s small monetary gift cards – keeps your drivers focused and motivated on safe driving habits.
4) The Driver Pool
The Driver Pool is so important when trying to achieve the lowest insurance rates from commercial fleet insurance providers for your transportation company. How you chose to manage drivers and who you hire is crucial. Create formal guidelines that clearly outline what is acceptable for employment. We recommend only hiring drivers with zero accidents within the past three years and minimal moving violations. Clean MVRs are best but we know that professional drivers with experience usually do not have clean MVRs and this is ok. Professional drivers are on the road up to 3x more than someone commuting to/from work so it’s a given that they will most likely have more violations on their records. Repeat offenders can impact the cost of your commercial fleet insurance and should be let go. No one is perfect, but you should train your drivers with the goal to be as safe as possible. Excessive violations on a driving record can cause surcharges and prevent you from obtaining the lower insurance rates. Additionally, younger drivers sometimes generate higher premiums for commercial fleet insurance as well as newly licensed individuals.
5) Contact an Experienced, Transportation Insurance Broker
Working with a transportation specialist versus a local agency makes a huge difference as commercial fleet insurance brokers have access to many more transportation focused insurance companies. Also, an experienced broker will review your company data prior to submitting to commercial fleet insurance companies. If they see something a commercial fleet insurance company won’t like, they can address it with you and provide you with an opportunity to make changes before submitting to each carrier. The more information you can provide to a commercial fleet insurance underwriter, the better chances you have at achieving the lowest insurance rates. Because the for-hire, livery insurance market is so thin, carriers often get multiple submissions from duplicate brokers. Try to work with one broker at a time. You may think contacting multiple agencies well help you, but if they are all going to the same markets for commercial fleet insurance – it’s duplicating not only your own work, but the insurance companies as well. The livery market is a tough class of business and finding an experienced broker will absolutely give you a leg up on finding the lowest insurance rates over a generalist broker.
American Business Insurance Services, Inc. has been working with transportation companies across the nation for 35+ years. We have direct relationships with the most competitive commercial fleet insurance companies. We know what it takes to submit a complete application and present your company in the best light possible – which will no doubt translate to finding commercial fleet insurance at the lowest insurance rate.