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Passengers in Commercial Vehicles: The Insurance Argument

MH900431673

 

  Wednesday, December 05, 2012

From my perspective as a truck insurance agent and owner of Mid South Truckers Group, I can appreciate the insurance argument for and against allowing passengers to ride in a commercial motor vehicles.

Generally speaking, the commercial truck insurance industry does not like the exposure. In most jurisdictions, passengers can sue the trucking company and the driver of the truck if they are injured in an accident – even if the authorized passenger is the spouse of the driver. Trucking insurers spend their waking hours trying to figure out how to minimize their chances of having to pay a claim. They figure they pay enough claims just from trucks hitting, or being hit, by other vehicles. So from their logical perspective they see no reason to invite yet another claimant to accident by allowing a passenger in the vehicle. Some insurance carriers are so adamantly against taking on this exposure that they will refuse to insure a trucking company that allows passengers.

While these insurance companies may have some data on their side to make that argument, my perspective is different. I would prefer to see a trucking company have a well reasoned passenger or rider policy rather than to simply exclude all drivers from having any passengers. Let’s face it; the over the road driver spends many nights on the road. For some, this may be a blessing. For others, a companion or spouse could make a difficult job more pleasant and may even have a positive impact on safety.

Ask yourself this; how many accidents don’t happen because a driver is not pushing to get home from a long road trip? It is tough to come up with statistics that show why an accident never happened. Here is another thought; what if a trucking company can reduce its driver turnover by 5-10% by having a well managed rider program? Don’t both the trucking companies and insurance carriers want to see that, and wouldn’t that have an overall positive impact on safety?

I am not downplaying the potential risk that is assumed when a trucking company incorporates a rider or passenger program into their operations. However, don’t assume that just because a trucking company has a “No Passenger” policy that the exposure is necessarily eliminated. After all, if illegal immigrants have the right to sue, then don’t think for a second that an unauthorized passenger is not going to sue. Personally, I’d rather see the issue addressed by the trucking company with a well executed program that minimizes the risk of loss while benefiting the driver and their family.

Elements of a functional passenger program include:

  • A properly executed Passenger or Rider Agreement. The agreement should be written and signed by the driver, passenger and the trucking company representative. It should outline the inherent risks being assumed by the passenger and outline the expectation that they rider will follow all safety rules and regulations of the trucking company to include wearing a seatbelt at all times the vehicle is moving. Additionally, it should include a hold-harmless agreement between the driver, passenger and the trucking company (I know, these may not be enforceable in court – but they do outline the expectations for the various parties involved. Much like locking a door only keeps an honest person honest, a hold harmless agreement may discourage some from unnecessary legal action).
  • Limit the authorized passengers to specific family members or significant others. It is a good idea to limit kids to no younger than 12 years old.
  • Have Passenger Accident Insurance coverage in place. Trucking is dangerous. A good passenger accident policy will provide funds to pay for medical expenses should an authorized rider be injured while riding on a trip, and eliminates the necessity of legal actions against the trucking company.

If you are a driver and need Passenger Accident Insurance, or you are a trucking company and would like to establish a program for your firm, give us a call at Mid South Truckers Group (888-641-3753) or visit us on the web at midsouthtruckersgroup.com.

Rusty Vollmer

Mid South Truckers Group, Inc.

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