Cell phone usage is now becoming a major problem in securing insurance coverage. This past month, I have had several insurance companies exclude, non-renew or refuse coverage on drivers for cell phone activity on their MVR. It is not a moving violation, but underwriters are viewing cell phone activity, and other non-moving violations, in their overall consideration of the risk. Insurance applications are now asking questions about cell phone usage, and they now want to know what is being done (by you) to curtail its use.
This cell phone issue brings up the larger topic of increased scrutiny of driving records (MVRs). As the insurance industry tightens it’s underwriting on the trucking industry, truckers will see an increased scrutiny of their overall driving record. For the most part, insurance premiums are remaining relatively stable for now (and in the foreseeable future), but as underwriting becomes tighter, your motor vehicle record (MVR) is going to play a more major part in the future cost of your insurance. With that said, let’s talk a little bit about your driving record.
Your driving record is the major qualifier for the participation in your chosen profession –it allows you to provide for you and your family. With over 30 years of writing coverage for the trucking industry, it still defies me to no end how a professional driver can defend or justify some of the driving records that I see. Regardless of your explanation, your MVR is an insight into who you are and how you conduct your business. If you are an employed driver, it’s how you show respect for yourself, as well as your employer.
Risk managers are now taking into consideration not only moving violations, but also non-moving violations like cell phone usage, overweight tickets, suspensions and failures to appear (FTAs). Often, these types of citations will turn into a suspension if not taken care of. Then, if you are cited while driving with a suspended license, it will be treated as a major violation on your MVR. The excuse that you are behind the wheel 10 hours a day, or that you drive a quarter million miles a year does not hold water. I have clients that I have had for almost as long as I have been in business that have never had a citation. That’s an unusual driver, but it points to the fact that it is being done and that it is not an impossible feat, as some of you would like to think.
There is also a progression of moving violations that directly relates to a driver’s chance of being involved in a traffic accident. For each moving violation, the chances of an accident are increased by 15%. An aggressive driver is 50% more prone to be involved in a serious accident. Speeding, tailgating, and lack of patience are the most common signs of the aggressive driver. 20% of these drivers are involved in over 50% of all related truck accidents.
The professional driver has a great deal of weight on his or her shoulders. The public is watching. Regardless of statistics and regardless of the circumstances of a truck-related accident, the trucker is always holding the short end of the stick. What you do on the road is directly related to the scrutiny and regulation imposed on you by the government and the regulations it creates. But not all is gloomy for the trucking industry. Regardless of the opinion that the public puts on the industry, some facts have to be pointed out, and the public should be made aware of these facts.
The following statistics were compiled in 2010, when truck crash fatalities increased to 4,000 lives and 74,000 individuals were injured. What these statistics fail to reveal is the FAULT of these crashes. What are the true accident statistics? An estimated 41,000 to 45,000 traffic deaths occur every year. Fewer than 9% of those deaths involve commercial vehicles. More than 80% of those accidents were the fault of the non-commercial driver. Of those accidents that resulted in a death, only 4% of trucks are fatigue related (I put fatigue in because such a big deal is being made of it right now with the hours of service). What is the cause of the truck accidents? More than 75% of truck driving accidents are due to the driver of the passenger vehicle. Only 16% of all truck driving accidents are due to the truck driver being at fault.
Now, you are being held to a higher standard, and as time goes by, that standard will become higher. And for those of you that choose to ignore your responsibility as a professional driver, you will pay more, and at some time the economics of your ability to drive will become pointless and other work will await you. If you like your job or profession, do not let that happen. Take steps now to correct your bad habits before they kill your career – or someone in a vehicle around you. If you have any questions or comments, I can be contacted through California Plus Insurance Service, Inc. in Modesto, California at 1-800-699-7101.