Ken Bowman is a product manager for Progressive. Progressive, in business since 1937, is a commercial auto insurance company.
Find a construction insurance carrier that fits your business needs and offers your company proper protection.
You need vehicles to keep your business running, but without proper auto insurance coverage, you could lose money if an accident occurs. When you work with a local independent agent to build your auto insurance policy, ask these eight questions to decide which carrier fits your business needs.
1. Are all of my drivers covered, even if they are not listed on the policy?
Find out the insurance company's policy on covering employees who drive your business vehicles. Some vehicle insurers will only extend coverage to drivers who are specifically named on the policy. If you regularly employ temporary workers, they will not be covered unless you ask your insurer to add them to the policy.
Some insurers allow "permissive use," which means that temporary drivers are covered as long as they have your permission to operate the vehicle. But you should still always list all employees who drive your vehicles.
2. Are my employees' personal vehicles covered if they get into an accident while running a business errand? What about rental cars?
In many cases, rental cars and employee vehicles are not covered under a standard commercial auto insurance policy. This means you could be liable if one of those vehicles is damaged in an accident.
If your business often uses rental vehicles or if you send employees on business errands in their personal vehicles, consider adding hired auto or non-owned auto coverage to your policy.
3. Can I move to a comprehensive-only policy in slow months if I do not need full coverage in those off months?
A comprehensive-only policy provides coverage for businesses that do not need liability coverage during certain months but want basic protection against incidents like vandalism, theft, falling tree branches and hail. This is ideal for vehicles that sit for long periods during off-season.
A comprehensive-only policy also provides continuous insurance. If you were to drop your insurance completely, you might pay significantly more to get a new policy when your peak season rolls around because most insurance companies require proof of continuous coverage.
4. What kind of service can I expect if an employee has a claim?
Find out how quickly your insurer typically resolves claims. The faster they take care of your claim, the faster you can get your vehicle back.
One thing that can affect turnaround time is whether your insurer uses full-time, part-time or contract claim adjusters. Part-time or contract adjusters can slow down the process.
5. When I have a claim, is there anything I can do to get my vehicle back more quickly?
Even if the accident is not the fault of your employee, instruct him or her to report the claim to your insurer as soon as possible. Insurance companies can work with the at-fault driver's insurer to help resolve the claim and get your vehicle repaired quickly.
Also, put an accident information kit in each of your vehicles to make it easy for your drivers to capture insurance, driver and witness information after an accident occurs. Most fleet safety companies and local agents have these kits readily available.
6. Does the provider have 24/7 customer service?
Many insurance companies are only available during regular office hours, which can make it inconvenient to file a claim, add a vehicle to the policy and pay bills. Before you buy, check with your insurance company on their customer service hours to make sure they will be available when you need them.
7. Will all agents shop my policy on a regular basis?
While it is easier to stay with the same insurance company than shop around for new coverage, ask your agent to regularly quote your policy with other carriers to make sure you get the best deal.
In addition to auto insurance, you may need other types of coverage to protect your business, such as general liability and workers' compensation. It might be easier to buy all of these products from the same company, but you could significantly save by buying your policies from separate providers.
8. What are my payment plan options? Do I have to pay my entire premium up front?
Some insurers have significant finance charges associated with their bill plans or have no flexibility in payment schedules. Look for companies that offer flexible pay plans, including low initial payments and no finance charges.
Construction Business Owner, June 2011