Insurers, tech companies, cargo coverage, monitor behavior

In insurance for the transportation industry, technology is making new strides in both obtaining coverage and reducing risk.

Insurers can be more specific about the levels and value of cover. The detection and prevention of theft, damage and accidents is also gaining precision through new and improved technologies.

Major carriers like Nationwide and newer startups like MiKargo247 are innovating how to provide coverage.

Nationwide typically serves larger fleets of 500 or more trucks, according to Carol McIntyre, senior director of underwriting working with the commercial surplus and excess insurance team at the carrier. McIntyre works with owner-operator truckers who have just one truck or fewer than 10.

Carol McIntyre, Senior Director of Insurance at Nationwide

“Being able to customize excess and excess coverage is a big benefit for small owner-operators,” McIntyre says. “They may suddenly have a load that’s a little bit different than what they do most days. So we are able to provide travel coverage so we can increase the limit or we can specifically call out the type of cargo. Even if they don’t know all year what they’re going to end up carrying, we can work with them throughout the year to get them the coverage they need.”

A new insurance technology, MiKargo247, also addresses the excess insurance problem with one-way spot cargo insurance underwritten by Roanoke Insurance Group, a unit of Munich Re. The coverage is aimed at individual truck owner-operators who need higher freight coverage limits and real estate brokers who arrange shipments where shippers require certain levels of coverage, according to Dave Pascoe, vice president of sales and development of products at Roanoke Insurance Group.

Michele McGinnis, Co-Founder and CEO of MiKargo247

Michele McGinnis, Co-Founder and CEO of MiKargo247

Total truckload coverage is $100,000, notes Michele McGinnis, co-founder and CEO of MiKargo247. “If truckers want to carry higher freight value or goods that can be excluded, they are sent to the market looking for more insurance,” she says. This problem has been exacerbated by the recent rise in inflation, she notes.

“Drivers who didn’t necessarily need extra cover or a higher value six months ago may need it today. And they’re not used to looking for that. Because the cargo they carry is now much more valuable and expensive than it was before this market became so inflationary,” says McGinnis.

John Pope, Chairman of Cargo Transporters

John Pope, Chairman of Cargo Transporters

While larger carriers can afford to self-insure and weather market fluctuations like inflation, even they reach self-imposed limits, as John Pope, chairman of Cargo Transporters, a Clermont, N.C.-based company that operates about 500 trucks and 1,800 trailers, he explains. “Then we have carriers that take on more of what our self-insurance holds,” he says.

In addition to using new technologies and services to find suitable cargo coverage, shipping companies are using various sensors to protect cargo, both by monitoring the cargo and tracking the position of the shipment.

Cargo Transporters uses telematics to track its trailers. “We can tell if the trailer is moving outside without having a truck attached,” says Pope. His company is moving to more advanced camera surveillance of trailer interiors. “We receive periodic pictures of the interior of the trailer that determine whether the trailer is actually loaded or empty. This gives us a snapshot of the cargo that is loaded there. This is not a live view, but we can tell the status of goods. We can tell how they were loaded by the shipper and whether they were properly secured. We use a combination of these tools to manage the location of the trailer as well as the condition of the cargo that is there.”

Assistcargo, a Miami-based freight risk and security management company with operations in the US, Mexico and six South American countries, recently partnered with Tive, a transit visibility technology company. Together, they provide trucking customers with monitoring devices that give a lot of real-time data, including light detectors that show if a trailer door has been opened, according to José Luis Anselmi, founder of Assistcargo. Assistcargo operates its own monitoring center using Tive technology.

“We send the drivers a link and we can monitor on the driver’s cell phone if we want to,” he says. “We’re building a connection between the GPS fixed in the truck, the driver’s cell phone and the Tive device.”

Using a combination of GPS data and internal monitoring devices, Assistcargo and Tive can track the driver’s speed for safety and what might happen to the load along the way, as Anselmi explains.

“We conducted a very interesting experiment with the largest company in Mexico that sells air conditioning equipment. They had a significant degree of equipment failure. They didn’t know why or when this happened. “Using devices located in the cargo, we saw that the main problem was in transit,” he says. “The answer is if the driver stops suddenly, with the G-force, the pieces of the load are pressed against each other. By using monitoring to control driver behavior, we can dramatically reduce damage.”

More generally, an average speed of 50 mph may be considered safe for a particular truck and trailer with a particular load, but if weather conditions are bad, that speed may need to be lower, which observation can document or help with implementation, Anselmi explains.

One wrinkle to using GPS monitoring in this way, however, depends on the level of cellular technology supporting GPS functions, as Nationwide’s McIntyre notes. Tracking may fail if the GPS technology installed in a truck is still 3G, but all networks along that truck’s route have already been upgraded to 5G.

“Larger units or larger insureds, with over 1000 units [vehicles] are replaced [the 3G] technology,” she says. “Because our insureds are a little smaller, owner-operators, it takes time to get up and running. So we’re having a bit of trouble tracking some trailers right now, but we’re hoping to upgrade all of that technology soon.”

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