“The insurers are leaving, the insurers are leaving!” If William Dawes had been a bus guy, he’d be frantically roaring about the countryside, I’m sure, bellowing “The insurers are leaving!”
Once described as the Rodney Dangerfield of the American Revolution, Dawes never got the respect he deserved for actually succeeding in paralleling Paul Revere’s ride. Revere was captured, but Dawes managed to warn Minutemen of the Redcoats approach along a longer, and more difficult, route.
Those who follow this column (both of you) understand that my gift is identifying problems you already knew about and offering stolen bits of advice. This time, like Mr. Dawes, I have a shot at immortality.
Insurers are abandoning bus coverage for several reasons, many beyond our control. As a seasonal industry, we often have cash flow problems, resulting in many cancellations and reinstatements. We require a lot of hand holding, creating a bit of paranoia in underwriters.
Critics say that $5 million liability coverage isn’t enough, but insurers see that as a big number. We’re having trouble recruiting and retaining drivers, which may translate into lower hiring standards. That makes insurers nervous.
We carry people, so when there is an accident there’s potential for multiple claims, compounded by a legal system that sometimes assigns blame gratuitously. This makes it prohibitively expensive and risky to defend a suit even when you’re guiltless.
Insurers specializing in our small, unique, market with high limits are extremely vulnerable, so we need to love the ones who’ve hung in there.
Yet with fewer, and necessarily more selective, insurers in the market, some operators are going to find it difficult to find insurance at affordable rates (if at all).
There are things you can do to improve your position and get ahead of this ugliness. If I’m wrong about impending doom, they’re still worthwhile.
Follow your rating. Now is not the time to be “conditional,” and those nasty triangle thingies scare the poop out of insurance companies. It doesn’t matter whether those statistics realistically predict accidents. Attorneys will use them against you following an accident, and insurers know it. Take remedial action and let your insurer know you are on it. Waiting till renewal time may be too late.
Equip your coaches with as many of the new safety technologies you can afford. I’m a skeptic, and I still think drivers should have a feel for their bus and the road, but insurers and juries trump my feelings. In addition, emerging data from areas where they have been in use for a while indicates that they do have a measurable impact on accident reduction (just can’t help those puns).
There’s no reason we can’t have well-trained drivers and safety technology. The “bad stuff” is out there for all to see, so make an effort to let your insurer and customers know the proactive things you’re doing.
Maintain a warm and fuzzy relationship with your insurer. If there’s a shortage on the horizon, when insurers choose customers, they’ll “dance with them what brung them.”
If they offer training and other resources, grab them. We might learn something, and it shows them we’re holding up our end of what really is a partnership. A wizened executive said, “If you’re expecting the status quo, you may be in for a surprise.”
When the Titanic messed up, it wasn’t because lookouts failed to spot the iceberg. It was pitch black and flat calm. Nothing to see. What they missed was the absence of stars ahead, blotted out by the iceberg, nothing where there should have been something.
When renewing your insurance, consider that. Are there more, or fewer, companies asking for your business?