Almost one and a half trillion miles are driven by commercial trucks each year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Like all vehicles traveling on the roadways, commercial trucks require insurance to cover the possibilities of liability, damage, and injury that come with all those miles on the road. Commercial truck insurance differs depending on the size of the truck, the cargo, and the type of carrier.
A motor carrier is a transporter licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). A motor carrier transports goods or passengers on a “for-hire” basis. Some motor carriers own their own vehicles and others have long-term lease agreements with independent owner-operators, persons who both own and drive their own trucks.
Motor carriers are required by federal law to carry liability insurance to protect other people and their property from damages caused by the motor carrier. This insurance includes bodily injury and property damage components. Proof of insurance must be filed with the FMCSA by an insurance company on behalf of the motor carrier.
Cargo insurance coverage is also mandatory for common carriers, companies providing for-hire transportation to the general public such as FedEx and UPS. Contract carriers, those who provide transportation only to individual shippers on a contract basis, are not required by FMCSA to have cargo insurance, although many carriers choose to have it or are required by their customers to have it.
Most carriers also choose to have physical damage coverage for their own equipment. This is similar to automobile physical damage coverage and includes collision, comprehensive, and fire and theft protection. Some states allow medical payments coverage to pay for medical expenses for the truck driver and passengers injured in an accident or uninsured motorist coverage to cover costs for an accident caused by another motorist with no insurance.
An owner-operator under a lease agreement to a motor carrier company is usually covered by primary liability insurance purchased by the motor carrier company. The owner-operator may choose to have non-trucking liability coverage for the times when the unit is not under dispatch from the motor carrier company and is not covered under the motor carrier company’s liability policy. An owner-operator who is working independently is required to maintain his own liability coverage and file with FMCSA assuming he is classified as a licensed motor carrier. Owner-operators may also choose to purchase physical damage coverage for their own trucks and cargo insurance for the goods they are hauling.
Private carriers, those that transport only goods belonging to their own companies, are still required to carry liability insurance, but it doesn’t have to be filed with the FMCSA. They may also carry physical damage, medical payments, and uninsured motorist coverage depending on their location and needs.
Detailed information about the motor carrier insurance requirements of the FMCSA is available on their website.