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Disputing a Questionable Towing Bill

Posted June 30, 2020 by Erin

As a trucking company, you deal with unique challenges every day, especially since the COVID shutdowns. However, no one ever wants to get the call that there has been an accident involving one of your trucks. Most important of course is checking on the health & safety of your driver, any other persons involved, and making sure emergency services are on the way as appropriate. Then, you will focus on getting the accident reported to your insurance company so they can begin the claim process. However, one of the under the radar things that is also taking place at this time – depending upon the extent of damage – is the request to a local towing company to arrive on scene and perform their services. Many times the police officer on scene initiates the call to a towing company they are familiar with. Sometimes it’s a towing company assigned by an emergency roadside services vendor. One thing is certain though; amid all the chaos of the accident your trucking company rarely is given the option to choose the towing company in an attempt to mitigate the eventual towing and related charges.

When the towing bill is sent a week or two later, it can be an anxiety-inducing experience. In recent years, it has become common to see towing companies charge $20,000 to $40,000, which can be ridiculously inflated, and then stubbornly refuse to release the truck, trailer, or cargo until the entire bill is paid. Sometimes the claim adjuster (or adjusters depending on whether multiple insurance companies are involved) can assist in negotiating the amount of the bill down to a more reasonable amount. However, if those efforts are not working, what can your company do to investigate and dispute an inflated tow bill? Here are some tips from an insurance claims journal article¹, along with some additional notes:

  1. Determine the circumstances of recovery, including the terrain, locale and hazardous material.
    •  This helps you determine whether the work performed matches up with what you know about the accident and the damage.
  1. Confirm the date of loss.
    • If the towing bill is showing a different date of loss/date of accident, that’s a red flag.
  1. Find out who called the tow company.
    • If the towing company was called by an emergency roadside services vendor, for example, are there standard rates or limits on what they can charge per agreement with the vendor?
  1. Find out when the tow company responded to the scene.
    • Is the towing company showing they arrived on scene at 4pm, when your driver says it was much later in the evening?
  1. Determine if the insured signed anything.
    • Was an agreement signed that obligated your company to pay the towing company according to the terms in the agreement? It’s always good to remind your drivers not to sign anything before speaking with your company’s Claims/Safety Manager or other designated company contact.
  1. Determine the type of equipment/vehicles used and whether each was necessary to the recovery effort.
    • If the towing bill is showing that they used multiple heavy-duty types of equipment when the details of the accident/damage didn’t require it, that’s also a charge to question.
  1. Verify the number of employees used in the recovery and how long each was on site.
    • A common line item in towing bills is 4 hours times the hourly rate, then multiplied times number of employees used. Many towing companies list 4 hours even if the actual work involved took much less time. Ask for actual times for when the work began and when it ended along with the actual number of employees used.
  1. Clarify the work performed.
    • If the towing bill line item give a generic description such as “labor” or “work time”, that’s not good enough.
  1. Verify whether cleanup was performed.
    • Another common practice of towing companies is to automatically include charges for hazardous material/spill clean-up, even if that type of work wasn’t actually performed.
  1. Obtain any photos taken of the scene.
    • Photos don’t lie, and can be great proof to support reducing the amount of the bill.
  1. Verify mileage claimed.
    • Is the distance/miles listed between the tow yard and the accident scene not accurate? Many times towing companies are calculating cost per mile/distance.

 

As always, we are also happy to assist in reviewing tow bills with you and answering your questions. Please do not hesitate to give us a call at 913-451-3900, or email us at: safetrucking@clinewood.com.

Wishing you many safe and accident-free miles!

 

Scott Dunwiddie

Director of Risk Management

Cline Wood, a Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC company

 

Source: ¹Johnson, D., 2012. How To Combat Questionable Towing Bills. [online] Claims Jounal. Available at: <https://www.claimsjournal.com/news/national/2012/05/14/206743.htm> [Accessed 24 June 2020].

 

Safely Pulling Over Off the Highway

Posted June 30, 2020 by Erin

One of the accident trends we have seen in recent months involves trucks that have pulled over to the shoulder of the highway.  Due to the higher speeds involved in highway driving and the large number of distracted drivers, these accidents can and usually do have serious, or even fatal consequences.

The first thing to remember in a situation where a driver needs to get off the highway is to determine if this is an emergency or not.  For example, if a driver receives an important phone call that demands the driver’s attention, it is the right decision to get off the highway, but this is a non-emergency and the driver should wait and get off at the first available highway exit.  In contrast, if a truck tire blows out and the driver is having trouble controlling the truck, then that is an emergency.  In that situation, try to remain calm and determine if there is an exit ramp close enough to safely reach, as it is safer to stop on an exit ramp than it is the shoulder of the highway.  If no exit is close enough, and the shoulder is your only option, remember these tips to keep you and others safe:

  • Put your flashers on and try to ease over to the right shoulder of the highway, avoiding any oncoming vehicles as you make your way over.  Never try to pull off on the left shoulder, as the left lanes are typically vehicles that are travelling at even faster speeds and passing other vehicles, increasing the chances of a serious accident.  Keep your flashers on the entire time the truck is on the shoulder.  This may be more than is technically required, but it helps other drivers see your truck, which lessens the chance of an accident.
  • Make sure your truck is all the way off to the right shoulder, and not over or close to the line dividing the highway from the shoulder.  If any part of the truck is sticking out into the highway, a passing vehicle that is not paying attention could clip that part of the truck.
  • After putting the truck in park, check your mirrors carefully before exiting the truck to ensure that there are no vehicles passing by at the time and you can safety step out of and around the truck.  Do not make any sudden movements or steps near the moving traffic while out of the truck.
  • Be sure to place warning triangles or flares.  49 CFR 392.22 requires that these triangles or flares be placed within 10 minutes in three locations – 1. On the traffic side of the shoulder, approximately 10 feet from the truck, in the direction of approaching traffic; 2. In the center of the shoulder, approximately 100 feet from the truck, in the direction of approaching traffic; and 3. In the center of the shoulder, approximately 100 feet from the truck, in the direction away from approaching traffic.  If using flares, the driver must make sure that the flares stay lit as long as the truck is stopped.
  • If not already known, try to quickly determine what the problem with the truck is and whether it is something that can be easily fixed or not.
  • Contact your dispatcher to let them know what is going on and determine best way to handle from there.  Stay in the truck until help arrives so there is no chance of being hit by another vehicle while out walking or standing around.
  • Take some deep breaths and remain calm.

As always, we are happy to discuss safety and answer your questions.  Please do not hesitate to give us a call at 913-451-3900, or email us at: safetrucking@clinewood.com.

Wishing you many safe and accident-free miles!

 

Scott Dunwiddie

Director of Risk Management

Cline Wood, a Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC company

 

Sources:

1 – MacMillan, C., 2019. Truck Driver Tips For Handling A Big Rig Breakdown. [online] Smart Trucking. Available at: https://www.smart-trucking.com/big-rig-breakdown/ [Accessed 25 June 2020].

2 – 49 CFR 392.22

 

 

Safety Considerations for Your Drivers During Civil Unrest

Posted June 4, 2020 by Erin

Even though our nation is still in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, some areas of the country are also dealing with civil unrest, which has included property destruction. Effectively dealing with civil unrest scenarios is largely unprecedented in most of our experiences. If your trucks operate within the affected areas, it is important for you to plan contingencies to keep your drivers safe and your vehicles free from damage. Some general safety ideas include:

  1. Consider a “No Stop” policy to thwart hijackings. Such a policy instructs drivers that in most situations, not to stop their vehicles if someone is attempting to get them to do so. Even at low speeds, large trucks are difficult to stop if the driver is intent on not stopping.
  2. Schedule runs to avoid nighttime loading and delivering in the affected cities if at all possible.
  3. If you have regular runs, try to vary routes the drivers take in case cargo thieves are conducting surveillance on your trucks and have planned a hijacking along your known route of travel.
  4. Try to manage driver’s HOS to get them in and out of the affected cities without forcing the driver to take a 10-hour break while there.
  5. Instruct drivers to avoid large crowds by observing situational awareness and tuning in to local news-oriented radio programs when entering large cities.
  6. Instruct drivers to park at modern, well-lit truck stops with on-site security and video surveillance. Avoid parking at remote locations and unprotected customer sites.
  7. If you choose to adopt any safety or security policies, be sure to properly train your drivers and address any concerns they have about their personal safety.  Drivers should not risk their lives in order to protect the truck or cargo.

Author: Kenny Ray, CSP, CHMM

FMCSA Releases Final Ruling, Updating HOS Regulations

Posted May 14, 2020 by Erin

May 14, 2020

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) today published a final rule on changes to Hours of Service (HOS) Regulations.

FMCSA’s final ruling makes the following changes to the existing HOS rules:
Short Haul Exception: This changes the short-haul exception by lengthening certain drivers’ maximum on‑duty period from 12 to 14 hours and extending the distance limit from 100 to 150 air miles.

Adverse Conditions Exemption: This will modify the adverse driving conditions exception by extending by 2 hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted.

Split Sleeper-Berth: Drivers may now split their required 10 hours off duty into at least 7 consecutive hours in the sleeper-berth and no less than 2 consecutive hours, either off duty or in the sleeper-berth. Neither period would count against the driver’s 14‑hour driving window.

30 Minute Rest Break: This rule increases flexibility, allowing 8 hours of uninterrupted driving time before a driver is required to take a 30 minute break, rather than 8 hours after coming on-duty. The break could also be satisfied by a driver using on duty, not driving status, rather than off duty status.

FMCSA cited flexibility as the driving force behind these changes which will go into effect 120 days after the rule is published in the Federal Register next week. The full ruling is available here, and FMCSA has also released a one-page summary of the ruling and a side by side comparison of the new and previous HOS regulations.

Diversification: A COVID-19 survival tactic for transportation companies

Posted May 13, 2020 by Erin

Trucking companies in the energy sector are directly feeling the effects of the ongoing oil war and the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses are being forced to park their trucks and face potential closure, or to consider diversifying their businesses overnight. Switching the primary function of a trucking business, for example from the energy world into the dry freight world, can be very challenging. Without the proper training and technology, diversification can be very difficult to achieve on your own. Many trucking companies are asking, “What do we do?” our MMA teams have been working to find solutions to help clients keep their doors open and their drivers working. Below are several options to take into consideration if your business is looking into new ventures.

Consider Diversifying

“Diversification. It is a tactic trucking companies have been embracing for a while now, as less-than-truckload companies get into truckload, truckload companies get into intermodal or warehousing, and everyone, it seems, is getting into logistics. Dry van fleets launch or buy flatbed or refrigerated divisions and vice-versa. Some companies are even branching out into real estate and solar power. MMA has seen it on a smaller scale, as well. A livestock hauler, for instance, who branched out into selling trailers. On the other hand, there is also the need to diversify the types of customers you have, as many flatbed companies learned the hard way when the housing and auto manufacturing markets both tanked. A headlong rush into diversification may not be the right move for every company, remember to “look deeply” at new ideas, to “do a deep dive” on an exciting new trend. In other words, don’t get so excited about new diversification opportunities that you forget to do your homework.”¹

For motor carriers entering sectors involved in the transportation of food, human or animal, or hazardous materials, there are additional regulatory requirements.  Food transportation requires additional training for drivers as mandated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Hazardous materials transportation involves significant increases in registrations, insurance and training requirements. To learn more about hazardous materials and food transportation diversification specifics, click HERE. Your MMA Risk Consultant can guide you through these regulatory requirements if you pursue such new business.

Reach out

Leverage your network of trucking industry coaches and specialists to help guide you. Work closely with your brokers, counsel and other advisors to work through the impacts of this crisis. Recently, MMA Insurance Consultant Skip Wombolt, reached out to longtime client, Artur Express, who specializes in dry van freight, hauling clothing, groceries and other essential goods for recommendations and assistance based on their experience. For this sector, business is booming, the demand is high and drivers with power units are needed. Artur welcomed the idea of picking up drivers and trucks to help haul the abundance of loads they are receiving. Sharing this collaboration as an option was an effective solution for keeping trucks and drivers productive. MMA was able to collaborate and assist over 13 trucking companies and keep 200+ trucks and drivers on the road. Through a simple client-to-client introduction, MMA has helped trucking clients stay in business and profitable during this challenging time. The collaboration facilitated by MMA, has allowed trucking companies work together instead of competing against each other. MMA was available in the moments that matter and has enjoyed being able to help them succeed as a true business partner, not just their insurance agent. By working together, building partnerships, building trust and building confidence, we can create a more perfectly balanced transportation network. One that will be better able to handle the ups and downs and the ins and outs of our industry.

Source: ¹ https://www.truckinginfo.com/158654/diversification-diligence

Author: Skip Wombolt

Regulatory Update – FMCSA Crash Preventability Program

Posted May 5, 2020 by Erin

As of May 1, The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has changed their Crash Preventability Test Program to a permanent Crash Preventability Program. This allows you to challenge certain types of crash data, through the Data Q System, in the SMS. If you have an eligible crash that occurred on or after August 1, 2019, you may challenge by submitting a request for data review with a police accident report, and any other compelling evidence, to show the crash was Not Preventable. The crashes that can be challenged are limited to the following types of crashes:

Struck in the Rear type of crash when the CMV was struck:

∙ in the rear

∙ on the side at the rear.

Wrong Direction or Illegal Turns type of crash when the CMV was struck:

∙ by a motorist driving in the wrong direction

∙ by another motorist in a crash when a driver was operating in the wrong direction

∙ by a vehicle that was making a U-turn or illegal turn

Parked or Legally Stopped type of crash when the CMV was struck:

∙ while legally stopped at a traffic control device (e.g., stop sign, red light or yield); or while parked, including while the vehicle was unattended

Failure of the other vehicle to Stop type of crash when the CMV was struck:

∙ by a vehicle that did not stop or slow in traffic

∙ by a vehicle that failed to stop at a traffic control device

Under the Influence type of crash when the CMV was struck:

∙ by an individual under the influence (or related violation, such as operating while intoxicated), according to the legal standard of the jurisdiction where the crash occurred

∙ by another motorist in a crash where an individual was under the influence (or related violation such as operating while intoxicated), according to the legal standard of the jurisdiction where the crash occurred

Medical Issues, Falling Asleep or Distracted Driving type of crash when the CMV was struck:

∙ by a driver who experienced a medical issue which contributed to the crash

∙ by a driver who admitted falling asleep or admitted distracted driving (e.g., cellphone, GPS, passengers, other)

Cargo/Equipment/Debris or Infrastructure Failure type of crash when the CMV:

∙ was struck by cargo, equipment or debris (e.g., fallen rock, fallen trees, unidentifiable items in the road); or crash was a result of an infrastructure failure

Animal Strike type of crash when the CMV:

∙ struck an animal

Suicide type of crash when the CMV:

∙ struck an individual committing or attempting to commit suicide

Rare or Unusual type of crash when the CMV:

∙ Was involved in a crash type that seldom occurs and does not meet another eligible crash type (e.g., being struck by an airplane or skydiver or being struck by a deceased driver).

Complete information is available at:

https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/crash-preventability-determination-program

 

MMA is here to help.

If you have any questions regarding the scope of this new regulatory update and how it might affect your company, please call your Marsh & McLennan Agency representative.

New Aid Package Replenishes Paycheck Protection Program

Posted April 24, 2020 by Erin

President Donald Trump today signed a $484 billion coronavirus relief package, the latest effort by the federal government to help businesses devastated by the pandemic. The Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, which was approved by the Senate earlier this week and overwhelmingly passed by the House yesterday afternoon, will inject $310 billion back into the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

The latest relief comes less than a month after the CARES Act allocated $349 billion to the PPP, a federal forgivable loan program created to help small businesses keep workers employed during the coronavirus crisis. The Trump administration and lawmakers have been under pressure to replenish the program after it quickly ran out of funds and was forced to shut down last week.

About $60 billion of the new PPP funding has been specifically earmarked for community lenders, smaller banks and credit unions to help smaller businesses that don’t have established relationships with big banks, and had a harder time obtaining loans in the first round.

The new package also includes $60 billion more for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, a separate SBA program offering economic relief, $25 billion for expanded coronavirus testing, and $75 billion for hospitals.

The SBA says that it has already approved over 1.66 million PPP loans, and nearly 27,000 EIDL loans and over 750,000 EIDL advances. As with the first round, these new funds are expected to run out quickly. Therefore, businesses that wish to take advantage of the PPP or EIDL programs, should act immediately. Borrowers may use this tool to find a nearby SBA lender.

Source: Lancer Insurance Company | Click HERE to view Lancer’s video “Applying for the Paycheck Protection Program”

Click HERE to watch a playback of MMA’s CARES Act Overview Webinar

Click HERE to view all of MMA’s Coronavirus Resources

Team Beef Stays Engaged Despite Pandemic

Posted April 23, 2020 by Erin

Team Beef Virtual Run & Ride – FREE event

Have your race schedules been impacted this Spring? Are you looking for opportunities to put your training to good use and remain active? Join the Team Beef community from across the country to get outside and move during this time of social distancing. Show how you’re #FueledByBeef by participating in a virtual run or bike ride.

Here’s how you can participate:

  • Register for a running or cycling activity and distance of your choice at no cost.
  • Complete your run or ride between April 1 and May 3 tracking your activity using a GPS-enabled device (phone, watch, etc.)
  • Distance options include a 5k or 10k run/walk, Half Marathon or Marathon run; 10, 25, 50, or 75-mile ride.
  • Upload a public photo of your activity to Facebook, Instagram, and/or Twitter tagging Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. and your State Beef Council. Use the hashtags #TeamBeef and #FueledByBeef.
  • Optional: Join the Team Beef club on Strava to track your run or ride with Team Beef athletes from across the country.

The essential nutrients found in beef, like protein, iron, zinc and B vitamins, provide our bodies and minds with the fuel we need at all stages of life to be the strongest version of ourselves. Click here to learn more about how beef’s nutrients, along with a healthy lifestyle, work to help build muscle and mental strength.

 

REGISTER HERE: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/team-beef-virtual-run-and-ride-registration-101231939456

FAQs:

Are there ID or minimum age requirements to enter the event?

Anyone is eligible to participate. Minors (under 18 years of age) should participate under the supervision of an adult.

How can I contact the organizer with any questions?

Email your local State Beef Council with any questions.

What’s the refund policy?

No fee is required to participate in this event.

Funded by the Beef Checkoff.

Cline Wood, a Marsh & McLennan Agency Gives Back to Local Heroes

Posted April 17, 2020 by Erin

As the world faces a global pandemic, millions are leaving the safety of their homes and suiting up for battle on the front lines against COVID-19. Medical professionals, First Responders, Truck Drivers, Farmers and Essential Workers are sacrificing so much to allow everyone else to be home and safe.  Last Thursday, a few of our colleagues joined forces to give a hot meal to the night shift working at Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri. 130 individually wrapped servings of baked Mostaccioli from local eatery, Sand Trap Bar & Grill, were delivered to the hospital for their staff to enjoy. Thank you to John Cline, Jeff Boan, SkIp Wombolt and Matt Koster for your generosity and thoughtful gesture! 

We especially want to say thank you to these everyday heroes for all that you are doing right now, we see you and we appreciate you.

Federal Regulators Exempt Expired TWIC Cards through July 31st

Posted April 17, 2020 by Erin

The Transportation Security Administration has granted a temporary exemption for the expiration of Transportation Worker Identification Credentials through July 31 for cards that expired after March 1.

The temporary exemption, announced April 14, is intended to minimize the spread of COVID-19 during the nationwide emergency.

The exemption became effective April 10.

“During this time, it is vital to move cargo expeditiously through the supply chain, and to ensure that medical supplies and home goods reach health care centers and consumers,” said the TSA announcement. “Maritime facilities and vessels are an integral part of the supply chain and must continue to operate at full capacity.”

TSA regulations require truck drivers and other transportation workers who seek unescorted access to secured areas of maritime facilities and vessels to undergo a security threat assessment conducted by the agency to receive a TWIC.

A TWIC expires five years from the date of issuance, and individuals must go to a TSA enrollment center to initiate a new security threat assessment to receive a new credential.

TWIC applicants also are required to provide proof of identity and fingerprints at approved enrollment sites, designated and operated by TSA trusted agents.

There are nearly 2.3 million active TWIC cards in circulation, TSA said. TSA records show that 234,536, or approximately 10% of the total, will expire in the next six months.

“Social distancing practices in response to the COVID-19 crisis make gathering at enrollment centers unwise or prohibited,” TSA said. Approximately one-third of TSA’s TWIC enrollment centers have been forced to close because they are collocated with commercial or government offices that are closed as a result of COVID-19. For those that are operating, the process of collecting fingerprints and completing the enrollment process “may introduce risk to enrollment center staff or TWIC applicants,” TSA said.

During the extension period, the agency said it will continue to recurrently vet exempted TWIC holders against federal terrorism and national security-related watch lists, and a Department of Homeland Security system for security threats, criminal history and immigration status checks.

 

Source: Transportation Security Administration. Read the full Exemption Notice here: https://www.tsa.gov/sites/default/files/esvp_twic_exemption-faqs-notice_4_14_20.pdf

 

 

This document is not intended to be taken as advice regarding any individual situation and should not be relied upon as such. Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC shall have no obligation to update this publication and shall have no liability to you or any other party arising out of this publication or any matter contained herein. Any statements concerning actuarial, tax, accounting or legal matters are based solely on our experience as consultants and are not to be relied upon as actuarial, accounting, tax or legal advice, for which you should consult your own professional advisors. Any modeling analytics or projections are subject to inherent uncertainty and the analysis could be materially affective if any underlying assumptions, conditions, information or factors are inaccurate or incomplete or should change.