As trucking gains greater importance in the U.S. economy, agents have an opportunity to grow their commercial auto book or even enter the market for the first time.
Trucking represents the backbone of U.S. logistics—and reliance on it is only escalating. In 2020, 10.2 billion tons of freight was transported by trucks, representing 72.5% of total domestic tonnage shipped, according to the American Trucking Association (ATA).
Further, in an industry that employed close to 8 million people in 2020 and paid $48.6 billion in federal and state taxes, freight availability—when cargo is ready to be shipped from a warehouse—is abundant, which means trucking services are in demand.
“Increased consumer goods spending, buying habits, stimulus packages, and changes to how we live and work have changed over the last couple of years," says Mark Gallagher, vice president, national transportation practice leader, Risk Placement Services Inc. “Inventories of products—home goods, electronics, building materials—continue to be replenished, which will lead to strong freight availability throughout the year."
Furthermore, “customers today expect faster wholesale and retail delivery times, requiring more nimble distribution of goods, such as warehouses in smaller, more local centers further from rail infrastructure," says Donato Monaco, president of Northland Transportation.
As a result, trucking is expected to continue its growth, with a projected 66% increase in revenue in 2022 according to the ATA's U.S. Freight Transportation Forecast to 2022 report.
As trucking gains greater importance in the U.S. economy, agents have an opportunity to grow their commercial auto book or even enter the market for the first time. In a field where the insurance market is shaky juxtaposed against the success of the industry itself, here are three recommendations for agents:
1) Know the market. “The allure of high and rising premiums has already attracted a lot of new agencies to this space over the last few years," says Dan Clements, senior director of sales & underwriting, transportation, Sentry Insurance. “But in my opinion, writing this line of business requires focus and commitment. As an agency, if you want to attract the best appointments available, you must be a specialist."
Echoing that sentiment, Gallagher says: “Trucking is specialized. The more you can be a student of the industry, the more you can offer more advice and coverage to meets the client's needs and challenges they may face."
2) Partner with carriers. “The industry is constantly evolving, so partner up with carriers and wholesale brokers that understand the industry and have options for a wide variety of clients and coverages," Gallagher says. “Diversify your book with seasoned trucking professionals and newer venture opportunities that may become your seasoned veterans."
“Understanding what information insurers need to evaluate clients—truck application, loss runs, driver and vehicle specifics—will help obtain coverage more efficiently," Gallagher explains. “Agents who are specialized in trucking are able to provide a narrative of the operations, safety culture and owner's background, in addition to basic submission information."
Working mostly with seasoned carriers will help ensure agents are in a better position to answer clients' questions. Agents should be prepared to answer the questions, such as: What will happen to my rates if I add these young drivers? What can I do to keep my rates from going up so much?
“Your ability to differentiate yourself with the educational value you add to their risk management can be the difference in acquiring and retaining customers," Clements says.
3) Establish good relationships. Offering additional services to assist in operations is a good way to acquire and retain a client.
“Many agencies offer their own in-house safety services to assist their customers—not just to answer the questions but to help them implement and execute a plan," Clements says.
Additionally, understanding the risks and exposures of clients will ensure accounts are underwritten correctly. “My advice is to consider the second sale, which is how the agent can prepare for and present a customer's application to the insurance company in order to obtain the best coverage and pricing," Monaco says. “As for renewals, avoid surprises by communicating any changes early and by making sure trucking operators are aware of any risk management recommendations and requirements well in advance of the renewal date."
“Agents are in a very good position to provide services that can really speak to what the issues are about," says Sean Cox, partner, Hall Booth and Smith P.C. “If you have an agent, especially an agent who works with a lot of different carriers, they can learn about the hiring qualifications and training processes that carriers are putting in place and can help share that information with their clients. That extra service is incredibly valuable."
“Placing insurance with a carrier that has a high reputation for claims handling ability, in addition to providing the proper coverage for their business, is extremely important," Gallagher says. “It helps an agent sleep at night knowing they have placed clients with carrier partners they can trust when losses occur."
Olivia Overman is IA content editor.