Commercial Auto Rates Face New Headwinds

Trucks, Route 66, California, USA

More accidents attributed to smartphone use while driving, coupled with much higher costs of repairs, have led to double-digit increases in commercial auto insurance rates over the past few years.

Distracted driving is just one of many factors that have converged on commercial auto insurance claims, resulting in sustained premium increases. Now there are new factors that are coming into play that will ensure that rates continue climbing, at least in the near term.

Commercial auto rates are increasing for companies with large fleets as well as for businesses with just a few vehicles and drivers. Here’s what’s at play and what you need to be aware of in the future.

Continuing factors

Distracted driving – This is the biggie. Starting a few years after the advent of smartphones in 2009, the steady decline in vehicle accidents and claims costs started to reverse when vehicular deaths started increasing for the first time in decades. The culprit, say many transportation safety experts, is distracted driving.

Repair costs – The cost of repairing vehicles has skyrocketed as cars have become more technologically advanced. A 2018 research paper by AAA found that vehicles equipped with advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) can cost twice as much to repair following a collision, due to expensive sensors and calibration requirements.

AAA cited the cost of repairing a car with windshield damage if it has an ADAS. The system uses cameras that are installed behind the windshield. These cameras need to be recalibrated after a windshield is replaced. This has increased the cost replacing such windshields to about $1,500, compared to $500 for a standard windshield.

Medical costs – Health insurance premiums and medical costs have been rising at a steady clip. Those increases carry over into the costs auto insurance companies incur when drivers and passengers are injured in an accident.

More miles driven – According to AAA, Americans are spending more time on the road. Driving more miles increases motorists’ likelihood of having an accident.

New and future risks

Weather-related property claims – A recent report in the insurance publication National Underwriter noted that commercial auto insurers say that the increasing frequency of large hurricanes, floods, hailstorms and wildfires are leading to higher auto physical damage claims. The number of property claims has been steadily increasing in the past decade as both the frequency and severity of major weather events grow.

Lack of experienced drivers< – As the economy expands, it’s become more difficult to find experienced drivers. Many experienced commercial drivers are retiring, and there are not enough job candidates with the skills and expertise needed to drive commercial vehicles.
The American Trucking Associations estimates that the industry is understaffed by more than 50,000 drivers, and this could increase more than threefold within eight years if current trends continue.

Security with onboard systems – As more vehicle functions become automated, new risks could surface from system failures that may result in accidents. There are number of technologies that come into play in new vehicles and a highly automated vehicle will rely on array of devices, including radar, light detection and ranging, cameras, graphics-processing units and central processing units.

Massive Breach Exposed 773 million E-mails, Passwords

News of the latest global data breach of some 773 million e-mail address and passwords should prompt individuals and organizations alike to change their passwords – particularly for any accounts that have financial, credit card or other personal information.

The scope of this breach cannot be overstated as the list includes log-in credentials from more than 2,000 websites, according to an article on the website Marketwatch, which cited a report by security researcher Troy Hunt.

Hunt said that the files were collected from a number of breaches and uploaded to a cloud service called MEGA, and the data was promoted on popular hacking forums. MEGA eventually removed the data, so it’s not clear how many hackers gained access to the files.

Considering the size and scope of the data trove, you should immediately change your passwords on sites such as:

  • Your online e-mail services (like Gmail, Hotmail, etc.)
  • Your banking and other financial services accounts (retirement accounts, credit cards, etc.)
  • All of your social media accounts.
  • E-commerce sites.
  • Subscription sites and other sites that store your credit card information.

Hunt has created a page on his website for anybody to check to see if their e-mail address and passwords were compromised. You can check here for free: www.haveibeenpwned.com.

Hunt said even his own data appeared in the giant trove of stolen e-mails and passwords, despite his intensive security practices as a privacy professional.

If you have employees, you should notify all of them about the breach and urge them to change their passwords. It should be an organization-wide endeavor.

To best protect your privacy, Hunt recommends using strong passwords, a password manager and two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication requires users to input a code sent to their phone or e-mail for log in, adding an extra layer of security

Top five password tips

  1. Adopt long passwords – And don’t use things like $ for the letter “s” or 3 for “E”, and other such changes that hackers are on to.
  2. Avoid periodic changes – Instead, change your passwords only when you feel there has been a threat. Most people will recycle old passwords or make small changes to their existing password.
  3. Create a password blacklist – Use this as the list of codes to avoid when making a new password.
  4. Implement two-factor authentication – Two-factor authentication has already become a de facto standard for managing access to corporate servers. In addition to traditional credentials like username and password, users have to confirm their identity with one-time code sent to their mobile device or using a personalized USB token.
  5. Organize regular staff training – Nearly 41% of company data leaks occur because of negligent or untrained workers who open phishing e-mails. It’s important to train employees to detect and avoid phishing and other social media attacks.

The New Landscape of Risk That Every Business Should Prepare For

Businesses are facing larger and larger liability claims throughout the country, driven by a number of legal trends that are resulting in bigger lawsuit awards and new risks that many companies are unprepared for.

A recent study by Liberty Mutual Insurance found that the U.S. insurance industry’s liability-related payouts have been growing steadily due a number of factors, including:

  • Higher average claims costs
  • Increased number of claims
  • Higher legal costs and settlements
  • Higher medical costs for injured parties (in terms of hospital, rehab and pharmaceutical costs).

There are a number of trends that business managers and owners should be aware of so that they can take the necessary precautions to protect their organizations to the best extent possible. If you run a business, you should be aware of these trends, some of which could seriously financially damage your organization.

Legal trends

The report first looked at some trends that are not only increasing the amount of litigation businesses must contend with, but also higher awards.

Litigation funding – Outside investors are fronting legal fees to pursue lawsuits on behalf of aggrieved or damaged parties in exchange for a percentage of any ultimate settlements or judgments. In these scenarios, the claimants are more likely to want to take the case to trial and refuse settlement offers.

They may also push for unnecessary medical treatments. Attorneys may also present complex legal arguments that draw out the case and increase legal costs.

Traumatic brain injuries – More plaintiffs are claiming that they suffered traumatic brain injuries even for non-serious incidents. Claiming brain injuries requires additional medical treatment, more frequent doctor’s visits – and even settlements that would pay the person for a lifetime of care.

Higher jury awards – Juries seem more inclined to award higher and higher awards for breach of contract, intellectual property, product liability and wrongful death lawsuits. This is likely due to a growing sympathy from the public – and hence jurors – for injured parties (in their eyes, victims). In 2016 alone, four verdict awards amounted to $1 billion or more.

Medical costs increasing

In many liability lawsuits there is a claim of physical harm that necessitates medical treatment, and costs are on the rise for several reasons:

Medical inflation – Overall medical costs are on the rise. And general liability claims are costly because they can sometimes require years of treatment and rehabilitation for the injured party. Hospital services are increasing, as are drug costs.

Medical management challenges – Insurance carriers have little control over the medical treatment choices and costs of general liability claims. Because of this, it’s easier for the plaintiff’s lawyer to direct medical treatment to favored clinics or doctors. This has driven up medical costs for liability claims exponentially.

Other costly trends

More violence – As active-shooter incidents increase, you should know that more than 50% of them occur in places of business, government buildings or educational institutions.

Technology – Technology is advancing at a rapid clip and with an increasing number of data-driven companies, the use of the Internet of Things, 3D printing, social media and more, there is a whole new area of liability for companies.

Sharing economy – The sharing economy, while good in many ways, has created a lack of clarity about when coverages begin and end. This is forcing the insurance industry to devise customized insurance products.

The takeaway

Each industry has its own unique set of risks and you should work with us to tailor your insurance policies to meet your potential liabilities.

You should also discuss with us how to best put together a strong risk management policy for your organization, focusing on the largest risks that your company faces.

In terms of insurance, you may need specialized policies beyond your general liability policy.

And you may want to consider an umbrella or excess liability policy, so you have the additional protection you may need in case of one large claim.