June 14, 2019

Over-the-Road Exposure Poses Hidden Risks. Here’s Why and What to Do.

How Crane Companies Can Detect and Reduce Over-the-Road Risks

Almost 18 years ago, I began my career in the crane industry as an operator at a large crane rental company. My time spent in the cab and on the road has given me invaluable field experience in understanding the risks and recognizing the trends evolving in the industry, particularly in the area of over-the-road transport.

With construction on the rise in the U.S., it’s important to take a look at this area of risk to understand why premiums are going up—and, more importantly, what you can do:

  1. MOBILE CRANES ARE COMMERCIAL MOTOR VEHICLES
    The first step to understanding over-the-road risk is to understand that cranes are considered commercial motor vehicles by the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration) and are subject to the same regulations and standards. The FMCSR guidance explains that a mobile crane is defined as being readily capable of traveling at highway speeds, over extended distances, and on public highways. Although the functions a crane performs are distinct from those of a truck, the ready mobility of the crane depends on its permanent integration with a truck chassis equipped with wheels, tires, brakes, a suspension system, and other components. In short, a mobile crane is a truck—so commercial vehicle standards apply. Furthermore, safety standards also apply to the large fleets of assist vehicles that accompany each crane on the way to a job site. When I was a Crane Operator, I didn’t appreciate my other role as a commercial driver with the responsibility of adhering to the proper regulations. This negligence could have cost my company in terms of liability and lawsuits.
  2. RISK ON THE ROAD
    With such a large fleet of big rigs on the road, accidents can happen. Seventy-five percent of large truck accidents are caused by bad driver habits, including distracted driving, inattention, speed, and aggression on the road. Compound these bad habits with a 10,000+ pound vehicle and the results can be disastrous. Rear-end collisions are a main cause of over-the-road loss. Consider that mobile cranes take about double the time to stop than a fully-loaded tractor trailer, and you’ve got a liability-waiting-to-happen if drivers aren’t alert. Another top cause is pinching, or when a mobile crane makes a wide right turn and another vehicle tries to squeeze through. Accidents like these can result in vehicular loss and bystander injury on a large scale.
  3. CURRENT LITIGATION TACTICS
    In the event of an accident that goes to trial, the plaintiff’s attorney may rely on a strategy called the Reptilian Approach to obtain a recovery for any bodily injury. This approach employs tactics to appeal to jurors’ survival instincts in the hope they’ll make a decision based on instinct and emotion. The plaintiff’s counsel aims to demonstrate how the defendant violated industry regulations and safety standards and put the “community” (ie., the plaintiff) in danger, with the hope that jurors send a message by finding in favor of the plaintiff and awarding a large sum. This reliance on Reptilian Strategy has led to large monetary awards called “nuclear verdicts.” Defined as awards in excess of $10 million, nuclear verdicts are making it harder and costlier to insure mobile cranes and other large commercial vehicles.

Understanding the hidden risks of over-the-road transport is important. It’s equally important for crane companies to partner with an insurance carrier like ProSight that mitigates these risks.

Here’s how ProSight helps:

  • Comprehensive coverage that includes over-the-road exposure as
    part of General Liability, rather than as an extra expense or add-on rider.
  • Innovative technology that monitors driver behavior to provide
    feedback and corrective measures.
  • Crane employee training through a secure online portal. Continual training
    is crucial to preventing bad driver habits from forming.
  • Claims expertise in the event you are ever faced with litigation.

As Crane Underwriting Manager at ProSight, I’m bringing a different approach to underwriting, risk management, and claims handling based on my experience in the field. My goal is to help those within the industry maximize profitability while minimizing the risk of doing business. Contact me for how I can help.

—Joseph Doerr, Crane Underwriting Manager