Commercial Auto Premiums Are Rising - What’s Driving the Increases?

Author David J. Garcia, C.R.I.S., A.A.I., President Rancho Mesa Insurance Services, Inc.

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The insurance industry is experiencing record losses on their commercial auto books of business, which is dramatically driving up insurance premiums for business owners. There are many factors that are contributing to this increase in losses; let’s take a look at six of the most prevalent.

1.    Distracted Drivers.  This one factor is now contributing over 30% of all accidents reported. This is the single most significant issue facing not only the commercial insurance marketplace, but personal auto usage as well.  Whether it’s talking on the phone, viewing and answering emails, or texting, these trends are escalating at alarming rates.
2.    Higher Auto Repair Costs.  This is one of the hidden “new” claim costs that insurance companies are facing.  Record auto sales of newer vehicles that include sensors, cameras and other new electronics are bringing the cost of repairs to higher levels than ever before.  As an example, minor fender repairs might have been a few hundred dollars in the past, but now with sensors and cameras built into most new vehicle bumpers, this cost has risen into the thousands of dollars.
3.    Increase in Miles Driven.  Since recovering from the recession, a healthier economy has lead businesses to expand and hire more employees.  Now, with a increased need for more company-owned vehicles, more miles are driven which leads directly to an increase in accidents.
4.    Rising Medical Costs.  The medical costs associated with treating auto accident victims is rising 1.5 times faster than any other cost associated with auto incidents.  While this probably comes as no surprise given the state of our health care costs, in general, it plays a major role in driving up commercial auto losses, and thus, premiums.
5.    Fatalities and Severe Accidents Increasing.  With an increase in miles being driven and the distracted driving epidemic, the severity of accidents has grown proportionately.  
6.    Less “Skilled Driver” Availability.  The growth in business and the need for more drivers has resulted in a shortage of skilled commercial drivers. The lack of availability has also increased the likelihood for more auto accidents to occur.

As a business owner, what can you do to minimize this exposure and help control your present and future auto premiums?  The process starts with having a formal written “Vehicle Safety Program” in place that is specific to your company’s needs and exposures.  The following will outline major areas that the Vehicle Safety Program should address.

  1. Management Commitment – strong management involvement and concern must be evident
  2. Vehicle Operator Responsibilities – distracted driving guidelines and consequences, a description on how the vehicle may and may not be used, etc.  
  3. Driver Selection - established criteria in order to be eligible to drive, should include age, MVR history, etc.
  4. Accident Investigation – formal written process for documenting, reporting and the resulting training to prevent similar accidents
  5. Vehicle Maintenance – establish a process for regular and consistent care of the vehicles tires, brakes, oil, etc.

In addition to the above, there are other areas that need to be addressed in more detail in order for you to build your own comprehensive Fleet Safety Program.  In order to get started, you may want to reach out to your existing auto insurance carrier, as many carriers will offer assistance to their policyholders for creating a safety program.

Furthermore, Rancho Mesa has a proprietary template for our clients, as they design new and re-design existing Fleet Safety Programs.  We also offer Fleet Safety Training workshops twice a year to assist in this process.  Our workshops are free of charge and offered to current and prospective clients. 

To learn more, visit our Workshops and Webinars.