Find the right insurance agent

Insurance is the one thing you pay for that you hope you never have to use. “That can affect a person’s motivation to get adequate coverage,” Connie Alexander, of Alexander Insurance in Tin Somers, Wis., says. “The natural thing is to focus on cost, rather than the whole mix of cost, coverage and service.” The key to achieving the right mix is having a good agent. You need an agent who knows the trucking industry in general and the needs of owner-operators in particular. The agent should have good relationships with the companies he represents; if you ever need information or a concession, the company might not be as accommodating to an unknown agent. Finally, the agent should take your calls immediately or get back to you within a couple of hours – certainly within 24 hours.

Alexander suggests that you talk to truckers who have been with the same agent for at least two years. “Talk to someone who has been through a claims service. It doesn’t do any good to talk to someone who’s only paid his premium for years and years,” she says.

Because even a reputable agent will give you a sales pitch, you need an unbiased source, and other customers are best. Once you’ve narrowed your search to two or three agents, call them.

Keep these qualities in mind as you talk:
· Is the agent sincere? Engage the agent in conversation. Ask what the procedure is for handling claims. Ask how automatic renewals are handled. Try to determine if the agent has your best interests at heart.

· What percentage of the agent’s business is trucking-related? If 90 percent is auto and homeowners, the trucking expertise may be too shallow to meet your needs.

· How long has the agent been a trucking insurance specialist? Longevity doesn’t guarantee knowledge or service, but it is a key indication.

· Does the agent have trucking references? Ask two or three customers about service. “You can bet the agent will check you out,” Alexander says. “Why shouldn’t you have the same privilege?”

· A good agent can be a trusted business partner and friend. Like any serious relationship, your relationship with your agent should be based on mutual respect, honesty and good communication. Your diligence in finding a good agent will pay dividends down the road.

There are six major types of trucking-related insurance:

Physical damage
Covers damage to your truck and trailer. Premium is based on value of equipment.

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Primary liability
Protects you when a third party is injured in an accident. Carriers are required by law to cover leased owner-operators.

Nontrucking-use liability
Pays for an accident if truck is not under dispatch. Some states don’t recognize this type of insurance, so ask your company beforehand what to do if something happens.

Covers a leased operator in an accident when there is no trailer, under dispatch or not.

Unladen liability
Provides coverage when running empty or bobtail, under dispatch or not.

Covers damage to freight in transit.

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