"Historically, trucking was a high initial investment and a sophisticated industry to enter," says independent agent Kelley Culley. "But in the past few years, many of those barriers to entry have dissolved."
Kelley Reno Culley
Reno Insurance Agency
How did you get started at your agency?
I'm a third-generation independent agent. After majoring in insurance and risk management in college, I went to work for a midsized regional carrier and had some amazing mentors and managers who took the time to invest in me. I loved building relationships with agents and solving their problems. After 10 years in the industry, I knew I wanted to be on the agency side. It took many years to build my own book from scratch, develop my referral network and find my niche. Being on the agency side has allowed me to focus on what I love about the insurance industry and follow my path.
Several of my clients saw the potential in starting a trucking business and I dove in to help them, not only with their insurance but also navigating state and federal red tape. Soon, I developed connections with carriers and, as my clients' businesses grew, my trucking book grew. Over the years, that interest has brought me into contact with many different segments of the trucking industry, but I still love to focus on small to midsized commercial trucking risks.
Biggest industry changes?
Historically, trucking was a high initial investment and a sophisticated industry to enter. It just wasn't possible for new companies to get contracts for the most lucrative and regular routes. But in the past few years, many of those barriers to entry have dissolved. Today, an individual who wants to open a new company can get a Department of Transportation number and their own trucks without a great deal of complexity. The most qualified can start getting routes almost immediately.
Hiring, training and retaining good drivers. This is the No. 1 complaint I hear from my clients—and my carriers. One bad driver can ruin a smaller trucking company, be it through accidents or DOT violations. I caution my clients constantly to be very selective of their drivers because their business success may ride on their decision.
Future trends in trucking insurance?
I foresee a continuing increase in and reliance on e-commerce. If anything, COVID-19 has only increased that trend. As online retailers expand their market share, I expect opportunities for trucking firms will grow. The trucking industry will continue to be shaped by technology. We seem to be on the edge of autonomous driving and that technology will soon become part of the trucking industry.
Favorite success story?
One of my trucking accounts started as an owner-operator who only needed physical damage on a truck he had just financed. His wife stopped in my office, unsure of what coverage she should purchase. English was not her first language and it took a while for us to understand each other, but I was happy to help. I was excited to see how their new company would grow over the years. Today, she and her husband have created a corporation, with a DOT number and a large fleet of drivers and trucks.
Olivia Overman is IA content editor.
This article was published in the January 2021 issue of Independent Agent magazine.