Commercial auto coverage may have you in the driver’s seat regarding claims related to accidents or injuries resulting
from a crash while operating an insured vehicle – but it can exclude other operational liabilities.
For-hire truckers face unique liabilities traveling the road, during deliveries and while on their own premises. A
trucking general liability policy can help you put the brakes on your liability exposure.
A commercial auto policy helps with claims that happen while operating your vehicle, but it doesn’t always cover what
happens during delivery or after a drop-off. Your direct client might sue you for damages they suffered due to your
missed delivery or even for slanderous statements made by your driver. You also need to worry about what happens
down the supply chain line – beyond your direct client – because of a missed deadline. You could be sued for lost
Truckers liability policies are as customized as your operations. Your insurance professional can help you decide which
options work best for your business.
Large liability exposure (high risk, high reward)
For-hire truckers and trucking operations have unique risk exposure in addition to traditional business operations.
Liability can extend to several locations, and you need coverage that follows your employees as far as they travel.
The nature of your business throws a few curves in the trucker risk road. Your employees are responsible for the care
of goods, interfacing with clients, making stops, and loading and unloading those goods. Just how much additional
liability risk you’re facing depends on a few factors, such as:
Number of trucks you have
Ownership status of your trucks and equipment (owned, hired, leased or non-owned)
Type of contracts you enter into
Use of a physical business location as your premises (you meet with clients on-premises or have guard
dogs, for example)
Storage or temporary warehousing of things you ship
Type of deliveries you contract (hot shot runs, load and unload services, or dead head runs)
Types of goods you typically handle (hazardous materials or refrigerated loads, for example)
Agreement for delivery drop-offs (after hours, or staff receives shipment)
Designated persons for loading and unloading of goods at their destination
Number of miles you usually travel
Liability from employees staying overnight in hotels or other sleeping arrangements
Reasons for truckers general liability coverage
You might think that your auto policy will cover you, but that’s not the case. General liability or a standard business
owners policy (BOP) is applicable, but it won’t extend coverage to your unique needs. You’ll need additional
protection for situations such as the following:
You meet with a client on-premises. The client slips and falls from the loading area and then sues you for
Your driver makes a drop-off at a client location. Your driver and client get into an argument over the
delivery being late. They yell accusations at each other in front of customers. Your client sues you for
defamation of character and loss of business.
You have a few guard dogs on-premises. One of the dogs bites a customer.
Your driver parks the truck at your customer’s loading dock, and he uses the customer’s forklift to help
unload pallets. He accidentally drives the forklift off the loading platform causing damage to the dock,
other people and the forklift.
Your driver causes bodily injury to another person while trying to defend her cargo shipment.
You sell used truck parts to another driver. The other driver has an accident and blames it on the used
parts you sold them. The trucker names you in a lawsuit.
Your driver delivers the cargo to the wrong address and it’s stolen before anyone realizes the mistake.
You schedule shipments that don’t always include a return load. Your driver gets in an accident on the
return, without a trailer attached.
Don’t confuse general liability coverage with your commercial or business auto policy, which usually covers damage
that arises while operating a vehicle.
A different kind of insurance solution
Since the trucker general liability policies are written based on the way you do business, you might have to shop
around. Truckers and motor truck liability policies offer a few endorsements to accommodate exposure areas. Here are
a few situations (and insurance solutions) to think about:
Completed operations coverage. You arrive on time, drop the shipment and return home. A little later,
the customer claims that the goods were damaged because you didn’t stack the pallets correctly. The
client sues you for damages, saying it was your delivery services that caused the loss.
Key stop coverage. Your regular client requires crewless deliveries (clients aren’t present or it’s an afterhours
drop) so your drivers use a key. They let themselves in, unload the shipment at your client’s
business and leave. Your driver forgets to lock up and your client gets robbed. Your client files a claim
against you for negligence because you failed to secure their property. Key stop coverage is also suitable
for issues with misplaced keys.
Bobtail coverage. Your routes include return runs without a trailer (dead heads). If your driver causes an
accident on a run without a trailer, it could change how insurance coverage responds. Ask your insurance
professional if you should require bobtail coverage from your contracted drivers.
Non-trucking liability (NTL) coverage. You contract with drivers who use their trucks for personal use
and off-hours. If they’re in an accident, truckers (or commercial) general liability won’t respond.
Excess coverage. You can add excess coverage to your policies to increase the limits on a specific line of
insurance. Unlike commercial umbrellas, excess coverage is tied to a particular type of insurance and
doesn’t extend past multiple policies. For example, your driver stops to help another trucker stranded on
the side of the road. They repair the truck, and both are back on the road. Later the other driver causes a
multi-car accident due to mechanical failure. Your company is named in a lawsuit for negligent acts
performed by your driver; this is known as vicarious liability. Excess liability can help with legal fees.
A word on the phrase “excess coverage”
Excess coverage can also mean you have coverage under a contractual agreement between you and another
business. Excess coverage (second to respond) kicks in when the primary coverage (first to respond) runs out, which
means it’s in excess of the primary coverage limits.
This coverage is determined by interpreting the language of the work contract and the work duties involved against
the insurance policies. It can get complicated, so it’s essential to understand the details.
The bumpy road of supply chains
Also, consider the stops along your logistics and supply chain routes. Your client contract agreements and driver
employment (contracted, employee or for-hire) can create coverage gaps for you.
For example, if you swap out trailers or other equipment with a different driver on the route, you might need to
consider added coverage for the trailer or driver. Your trailer might be covered under your auto policy (trailer
interchange), but your truck is not. You’ll need to know which coverage will respond (preferably both will) and you
should make that clear in coverage and contracts.
You don’t want to be without help if the claim involves the trailer when it’s detached from your truck or for
circumstances involving another driver. You can still be held liable. Check with your insurance professional to be sure.
Coverage exclusions and qualifications
Insurance companies have a host of exclusions regarding the types of coverage risk they’ll accept. If your trucking
operation transports hazardous materials or freights long-hauls, you’ll have a smaller insurance pool to choose from.
Your insurance professional’s industry knowledge could save you a lot of shopping time. They’ll match you with
insurance companies that take on your risk, and you’ll also have pro advice to help you through the confusing parts.