Insurers have a message for America’s truckers: Let us monitor your every move or we might take away your coverage.
Behind the push are surging losses for many insurance companies as an improved economy hasled to more crowded roads and more accidents. Meanwhile, smartphones have proliferated, increasing distracted driving. Last year, the commercial auto-insurance industry lost an estimated $716 million before taxes on policies, as costs totaled nearly $112 for every $100 of premium they
collected, according to researchers at investment management firm Conning Inc.
The business line’s underwriting results have been deteriorating since 2011, and are at their worst level since 2001, according to data collected from insurers by ratings firm A.M. Best.
To keep losses from repeating, insurers are increasing premiums across much of a business that generated $28 billion in premiums last year. Increases have ranged from low-single-digit percentages to 30% a year, companies and brokers say. Some insurers have even exited certain types of coverage altogether, including American International Group Inc.
Insurers are more likely to renew coverage, however, if a customer adopts sometimes-invasive technology. As a result, a wide range of commercial operators are installing cameras in the cabs of their vehicles, and cellphone applications to block use while a vehicle is in motion.
“We’re in the same boat as everyone else who operates a fleet in Atlanta: how to not lose our coverage,” said Ellis Lowe, human-resources manager at Estes Services, a heating and air-conditioning firm. “Insurance companies are tightening up.” Estes’s annual premium for auto insurance, in the low six figures, has risen more than 20% over the past two years, Mr. Lowe said. The firm just finished installing a program called Cellcontrol on phones of 112 technicians. The technology detects a vehicle’s motion and can be programmed to prevent drivers from any calling, app use, texting and emailing unless the vehicle is stopped, said Robert Guba, chief executive of Cellcontrol.
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