The Other Big Brother

I hear the term “Big Brother” a lot lately, most often referring to technology in transportation. Telematics, ELDs and in-cab-cameras all carry the Big Brother stigma in the malevolent, overbearing and Orwellian sense of the word.

I saw it most recently in the Insurance Journal article outlining the struggle for the commercial auto insurance segment to become profitable. The piece by Andrea Wells makes several references to technology as Big Brother, the all knowing, all seeing eye. The notion has been around as long as telematics and deregulation and is not especially well received among the notoriously independent driver and motor carrier community.

But there is another way to think about big brother. Your big brother is also a part of your family. He is the guy you look up to; the one who sticks up for you against the bullies. Your big brother is the one who gives you advice from the more experienced perspective, teaching you the things that he had to learn the hard way.

Trucking is getting kicked in the teeth these days. As the Wells article indicates, in reference to the recent AM Best Ratings report, a distracted motoring public, driver shortages and excessive losses from reptile theory plaintiff attorneys are taking a massive financial toll on the industry. The six-year loss trend in commercial auto underwriting is a clear indicator.

My take away from this narrative, as well as from my years experience on the client side of the commercial auto insurance relationship, is that both parties have adopted a position that is both reactive and complacent.

As Ed Havermann, VP of Transportation at The Keating Group pointed out, there has been a reduction of service on the part of underwriting that used to provide mandatory training for the clients and their drivers. As the services have been reduced, the losses begin to mount up.

I don’t believe that underwriting can simply charge their way out of this crisis by increasing premium and dropping coverage on the “hairier” risks. As costs continue to rise for conventional products, alternative transfer solutions become more attractive for the clients who practice pro-active risk strategies and seek greater control of their insurance outcomes.

Such a trend will increase competition for the lower risk clients. Underwriters who provide the better service in the form of pro-active risk strategies will win the day.

But I do see an opportunity for both parties to team up and solve the problem together.

Motor carriers need help. It’s a rough road out there with challenges around every turn including new people coming into the industry every day. Motor carriers and drivers all want to do what is right, but need guidance, knowledge and advice to navigate the pitfalls.

Underwriters are in a unique position to provide that guidance. So as long as premiums are destined to continue their upward spiral, why not add some of those services back into the equation? Why not help the client to gain better traction on an otherwise slippery road to success?

It’s time for insurance to become the other big brother.

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