Most average people and even a few business executives might be surprised by the magnitude of shipping by truck in the United States. Our interstate highway system is one of the wonders of the business world, connecting population centers across nearly four million square miles and making it possible to haul nearly anything from coast to coast in a matter of a few days.
It is also one of those things that you don’t notice until you make a concentrated effort and pay special attention. Trucks operate in kind of a half-invisible state most of the time, unless you’re stuck in traffic and you can’t help but notice them. There are an estimated 3.5 million professional truck drivers in the U.S. with an additional five million non-drivers employed by shipping companies. Getting freight from one place to the next with trucks is one of the foundational industries in our economy. Without it, it would be impossible for many companies to operate at all.
Alongside the sprawling freight business made possible by short and long-haul trucks is the ever-present potential for accidents and the continuous need for truck insurance. Every driver has likely encountered that traffic disaster of all disasters when there is a spill or a multi-vehicle accident involving some kind of trailer and semi truck. The complex web of liability and litigation that often follows such accidents is enough to make even a medium-sized law firm stop for a moment to gather their strength. Half a million truck accidents occur every year, with some five thousand of them resulting in fatalities. The reason truck accidents are so fraught with financial risk, however, is because what they carry is usually rather expensive to replace.
The trucking industry generates $700 billion in revenue annually, a figure which represents approximately three and a half percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. With that kind of economic footprint, it is vitally important the industry operate efficiently and with as few destructive incidents as possible. This is one reason, among many, the trucking industry pursues safety features for its vehicles and the government establishes the highest practical standards for vehicle safety across the country.
Despite the opportunities available in the industry, the nation still has a huge and growing shortage of drivers. While this likely isn’t due to safety issues, it does make it difficult for shipping companies, commercial truck insurance companies and technology providers to build a population of better trained drivers. The turnover rate in the industry tops 90%, which is a staggering figure considering wages for a private fleet driver can approach $80,000 a year and even the median wage is north of $40,000.
One might conclude an aging workforce would produce a safer environment for drivers, and while that is true to a certain extent, the advances in training, technology and road safety are difficult to communicate in an environment where little to no initial training can take place. Truck driver salaries have been increasing at a rate of between 8% and 12% in recent years, which puts them far ahead of many other jobs in terms of total compensation. The advent of online shopping and the resulting surge in entrepreneurial activity across the country and around the world has made the simple act of carrying a box from one place to the next one of the most lucrative and sought-after skills in business.
Even so, the United States is facing a shortage of truck drivers, which makes the existing workforce incredibly valuable. What has already been invested in the population of working truck drivers is therefore something most shipping companies would like to preserve. For shipping companies and any other business that depends on getting freight from one place to the next, it is imperative their existing investments be protected, which is why a top-shelf insurance company is so vitally important. Running a shipping business that inspires confidence, puts clients minds at ease with regard to their logistics needs and engenders trust in both the business community and the public at large is a tough task. It is one that is made far easier when you have an insurance company in your corner with the knowledge and experience to guide you through your planning, training and decision making processes.
The piece of the puzzle that matters most is training. A good example is one of the surprising facts regarding truck accidents. Sixty-four percent of truck accidents occur on rural roads and only five percent take place on interstate highways. Sounds unlikely doesn’t it? After all, every time the average person hears a story about a truck accident, it’s causing a five-mile traffic jam on the nearest freeway. Driving on an interstate highway requires considerable skill, but so does driving on rural roads, especially with 40 tons of cargo and unpredictable road conditions. Would better training for those situations save money? Nearly 200,000 of 2013’s truck accidents are estimated to have occurred on rural roads. It should be pretty clear most trucking companies don’t want their drivers or their shipments to become statistics.
Then there’s the issue of who actually gets injured in truck accidents. In 2013, of nearly 4,000 truck fatalities, 691 were truck operators, which means an overwhelming portion of the danger in a fatal accident is faced by other drivers and passengers. It isn’t necessary to emphasize the liability issues faced by the shipping company or the truck’s owner in such a situation.
The truth is training, safety and having top advisors on your side are the keys to running a safe and profitable business. Let us show you what a knowledgeable and motivated insurance company can do. We have agents who know all the facts and can help guide you through all the policy options whether you are a small or large shipping company or even a single truck operator. Trucking insurance doesn’t have to be complicated, it doesn’t have to be confusing and it certainly doesn’t have to be expensive. The better choice is to be informed and make the right decision for you and your clients. We’re always ready to help.