Thursday, February 15 2018
Orlando, Fla.— If you are in the truck industry in Central Florida, you must know the Florida Trucking Association puts up a series of resources to keep you well informed about the state’s requirements for your type of job in terms of safety as well as legislation.
We all know this is the type of business where if you are not in the road, you may not make money, but it is of uttermost importance to stay up to date with rules, regulations and safety measures. Failing to comply with those may also result in loss of business, lawsuits, and ultimately, severe consequences like revoking your permits leaving you unable to operate.
In the coming days, for example, the National American Transportation Management Institute will hold a Safety and Compliance Course in Bartow, Florida.
The course will consist of three seminars held back-to-back, which you can take advantage of all, or attend the ones you are most interested in.
Discussion topics are:
DOT Compliance & Safety (1 day): Focuses on driver qualifications, safety fitness and safety ratings, roadside inspection, CDL requirements and driver physicals. Master skills necessary to survive a DOT safety audit.
Controlled Substances & Alcohol Mandatory Training (0.5 days): Complete the DOT mandatory supervisor training requirements for alcohol & controlled substances.
HOS & Driver Logs (0.5 days): Hands-on interactive seminar providing training on federal Hours of Service and the proper use of driver logs.
The seminars will take place at Polk State College (Bartow Campus) on March 22-23, 2018. You can register directly at the NATMI website and there is a discount fee for FTA and NATMI members.
There will also be a Safety Certification Program in Jacksonville on February 26 through March 2, 2018 from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. This event will take place at the Four Points by Sheraton, Jacksonville Baymeadows.
These will also back-to-back courses on Motor Fleet Safety Basics the first 2 days and Managing Motor Fleet Safety Program the other two days. The courses must be taken in the classroom and an the exams will be administered the morning after the second course.
The NATMI exists to improve the performance and productivity of the professionals directly responsible for effective fleet and driver performance – risk managers, safety and security directors, maintenance managers, and commercial driver trainers. It is no surprise that the Florida Trucking Association often teams up with them and encourage industry members to obtain the available certifications.
Their training and certification programs are outcome-focused and utilize rigorous instructional design standards. “Outcome-focused” means that the process, structure, and content of the programs are focused on the desired outcomes that our professional development programs should bring. For the companies who employ our certification program graduates, these outcomes include:
• reduced accidents and injuries
• lower vehicle maintenance costs
• improved driver retention
• improved operational efficiency
• better management systems
The trucking industry continues to evolve and adapt to changes in transportation laws and policies, and in energy costs. More than 80 percent of freight by weight is hauled by the industry, making trucking the cornerstone of commerce in the United States. Hauling fuel, agriculture, and other important products from fourteen ports to thousands of locations throughout Florida and the United States makes for sure everybody’s life more a convenient one.
Saturday, January 20 2018
Orlando, Fla. — In America, we all know who drives the economy. Transportation makes economic activity possible by enabling the production of goods and services—for instance, in carrying the raw materials needed to manufacture goods. Transportation also serves as a major economic activity itself. Households, businesses, and the government directly consume transportation goods (e.g., vehicles and motor fuel) and services (e.g., public transit and commercial airline transportation) to meet their travel needs. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics has come up with the most recent report about the contribution of the transportation sector.
Here are some of the most important highlights related to our industry:
Taking a look at the quantified contribution of the transportation industry to the U.S. economy just reiterates what we know about this important sector: it makes economic activity possible and serves as a motor to the U.S. Economy.
Thursday, December 28 2017
Orlando, Fla. — It’s the beginning of the Winter Season and for us in Orlando it doesn’t represent a big issue, except for foggy mornings that make our driving time a little difficult and risky. Although employers cannot control roadway conditions, they can promote safe driving behavior by ensuring workers.
Employers should set and enforce driver safety policies. Employers should also implement an effective maintenance program for all vehicles and mechanized equipment that workers are required to operate. Crashes can be avoided. Learn more at: Motor Vehicle Safety (OSHA Safety and Health Topic’s Page). Also, employers must ensure to have insurance coverage that is in good standing.
Some owner operators do need to travel interstate and may face bigger trouble and risks on the road. The longer the haul or the steeper the terrain, as in certain areas of the central and western United States, the more dangerous it can be.
Even though the weather may not look bad when you head out, things can change in a hurry. Once cold weather hits, it's best to always be prepared for the worst. So, in other words, if you are not destined to drive south,
being prepared for the best is key.
Here are some some safety tips provided by truckdrivingjobs.com
1) Safety Inspections and Walkarounds
While many companies mandate safety inspections for company drivers, particularly OTR drivers, on a daily basis, many veteran drivers overlook this simple and important step. A low tire can cut fuel mileage, and if the low tire is one of the main drive tires, the driver's control can be severely and dangerously compromised. Besides proper tire inflation and possible damage, the driver should also check the fluids (oil, windshield, transmission, and so on), as well as the wipers and brake lines.
2) Radio Traffic
Many drivers have gotten out of the habit of monitoring citizen's band (CB) radio traffic in favor of listening to satellite radio such as Sirius. This practice can be problematic because it prevents drivers from getting crucial early warnings about such things as road closures, hazardous conditions, and traffic accidents. Many drivers have learned the hard way that listening to CB traffic may not be the most interesting thing to do, but it can give vital advance warning of unsafe conditions so drivers can alter their travel plans according to weather and related problems.
3) Snow Tires and Chains
Many states, particularly in mountainous areas such as the portion of the US west of the Rocky Mountains, have areas where snow tires and chains are not just recommended, but mandatory. Failure to observe chain laws can result in expensive fines and blights on drivers' records. It can also create dangerous conditions for the driver, the cargo, and other drivers on the road. Many areas where chains are required feature a combination of steep uphill and downhill grades and valleys where snow, ice, and wind come together to produce hazardous weather conditions. Studded snow tires and chains are designed to add traction and prevent slippage on snowy or icy pavement, as well as making stopping or slowing easier and less dangerous under these conditions.
4) Speed Is Deadly
While the overland shipping industry relies heavily on speed to get vital goods from place to place, the fact is that speed is not always a good thing. During winter storm conditions, high winds and low visibility due to blowing snow can severely impact the stability of a load or the vehicle and prevent the driver from seeing obstacles and hazards on or near the roadway. Even more dangerous is so-called "black ice," which creates a nearly frictionless surface on the road that can cause even the biggest tires to slip. Thousands of accidents every year are attributed to black ice. In addition to the potential damage to the vehicle itself, fragile cargoes can easily be damaged or destroyed in such accidents. While owner operators may find themselves facing penalties due to keeping their speeds low, these penalties are trivial compared to losing their cargoes, their lives, or the risk of causing someone else to lose theirs.
5) Pull Over
Unfortunately, all the precautions, skill, and nerve in the world cannot overcome the dangers of severe winter weather. In these situations, it is better for a driver to pull over and find a place to wait out the storm. Many drivers cite the possible expense of not making a delivery as scheduled as a good reason to press on in extreme weather conditions, but if the snow is falling faster than salt and sand trucks or plows can clear it away, this kind of thinking can result in a tragic accident. Of course making a timely delivery is important, but relatively few loads can legitimately be said to be "life or death" matters. Sitting in a motel room or truck stop waiting for a storm to break may not seem like the most cost-effective way of getting from place to place, but contrasted against the risk of having an accident that will assure the load never gets where it's going, most drivers will agree that it is far better to wait.
6) Safety First
Many drivers, when on the job & considering the options and planning their routes to assure timely delivery, assume a set and continuous speed throughout the trip. However, winter driving can change these considerations drastically. Particularly when snow and ice are present, keeping the vehicle's speed constant but slow enough to be able to respond effectively to hazards is a good start. Drivers often talk about "white line fever," where they slip into a fugue state and drive for minutes or hours without recalling one thing they saw. Situations like these are exceptionally dangerous, because the driver's full focus is not on the road. Additionally, odds are good the driver is not checking their mirrors or scanning the road properly. Safety and alertness should always be the first consideration when driving in winter road conditions.
From all of us in Orlando Truck Insurance, we want to wish you a happy and safe holiday season and a great new year for you and your loved ones!
Thursday, November 16 2017
Orlando, Fla. —Tesla recently unveiled its eagerly-awaited all-electric semi-truck!
Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk has promised a truck that will “out-torque any diesel semi” and drive “like a sports car.” Seeing what an all-electric semi is capable of may be the most entertaining part of the night, even if it’s not a key metric for Tesla’s trucking customers.
Still, while we all wait for the complete rollout into our roads, there are a few things the industry is watching closely.
About the Long Range
The range of any electric vehicle is the critical metric—it defines how the vehicle can be used and the size of its potential market. Five years ago, few would have thought that a long-range heavy duty-truck was even possible. That’s changing fast. Daimler, the leader in Class 8 diesel trucks, recently unveiled a 220-mile range electric big rig, establishing a new bar for the industry. Long-range hauling across vast stretches of the U.S. would likely require more than 500 miles of range.
Batteries are the single most expensive component of any electric truck, and the battery of a cross-country hauler could cost $100,000 even before you build the truck around it. The sticker price, regardless of size, is going to be higher than its diesel equivalent because of those pricey batteries.
Platooning on Autopilot
Will the truck, expected to roll out by 2020, come with some level of autonomous driving? Tesla has been in talks with California and Nevada regulators about testing semis that can automatically follow a lead vehicle, a technique known as “platooning.” Platooning cuts fuel costs by reducing wind drag. And if the autonomous driving system is good enough to run without a driver, it could also dramatically cut labor expenses.
The biggest players in freight are good at keeping their trucks in top driving condition and averse to messing with the supply chain. Convincing companies like Swift, Ryder, and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to bring an electric drivetrain into their fleets will be a tough sell. Tesla has been gathering feedback from trucking companies throughout the development process (at least one, Ryder, confirmed it), so it would be a good sign if Tesla comes out of the gate with some early partnerships.
A lot of infrastructure goes into servicing big rigs. Truck stops line the world’s highways, and fleet operators stand by with mountains of replacement parts ready to fix anything that might go wrong. How do they plan to deal with these hurdles? Will they introduce a whole new type of charging system, with ultrafast chargers or a robot that swaps out used batteries for fresh ones? Who will build out and operate the charging network? Who handles maintenance and roadside assistance?
Tesla’s car factory in Fremont, California, is running out of room and Tesla’s massive battery factory near Reno, Nevada, which is still under construction, seems like a more natural fit. That factory is also where Tesla makes electric motors and drivetrains—primary components for an electric semi.
Making it attractive to drivers
In a profile in this week’s Rolling Stone, Tesla’s CEO hinted at an unspecified “driver comfort feature”. Rumor says that a sweet coffee maker can make the cut, knowing that no one will buy it because of it, but still making it convenient for truck drivers.
Perhaps Tesla’s biggest advantage over other truck makers is that its Semi will share some core parts with its first mass-market car, the Model 3. Musk disclosed that the Semi uses “a bunch” of Model 3 motors, which sit in line with the truck’s axles. These relatively cheap electric motors will give the Semi unparalleled electric torque for getting quickly up to speed with a heavy load.
For more information visit https://www.tesla.com.
Monday, October 30 2017
Photo courtesy of FleetOwner
Orlando, Fla. — Truck parking is a capacity, geographic, and even political problem in Florida. We all know that truck spaces at rest areas including the 17 at the congested rest stop on eastbound I-4 about two miles north of State Road 434 — fill up fast.
For a long time, this has been an issue for truck drivers who are forced to park in places that are either illegal or unsafe. Truck drivers are required to stop to rest after ten hours of driving. Non compliance with the mandatory rest stops not only implies a violation, but a safety hazard for truck drivers and other drivers on the road.
These types of circumstances have contributed to security issues which have always been a problem in Florida, as our state consistently ranks high for cargo theft.
Inadequate truck parking continuously pops up as a top concern among truck drivers and carriers nationwide. In fact, it just ranked number four on the annual top 10 list of trucking industry issues compiled by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI.)
ATRI is not-for-profit research organization headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, with offices in Atlanta, Minneapolis, Sacramento, and New York and has been engaged in critical transportation studies and operational tests since 1954. Its primary mission is to conduct transportation research with an emphasis on the trucking industry’s essential role in a safe, efficient, and viable transportation system.
The Florida’s Trucking Association decided to conduct a study with Florida International University to assess parking lot utilization and technology use, Florida Dept. of Transportation (FDOT) found the biggest problem statewide is an imbalance of truck parking capacity due to a lack of parking information management. FDOT found an overflow of parking at some locations while others remain underutilized.
The good news are that in order to help resolve the problem, the Florida Department of Transportation (DOT) is now working to help commercial drivers with a new technology that detects empty spaces at rest areas and weigh stations and alerts them through message boards and websites.
The state plans to rely on the new $1.8-million truck parking availability system at the Seminole rest stop and six others along Interstate 95 in Brevard and Flagler counties. Work crews began planting underground sensors shaped like hockey pucks at each truck space, along with detection devices at the entrances and exits of rest stops and weigh stations to monitor the number of available parking spaces.
Isn’t technology amazing! These electronic sensors will relay the information to the state’s FL511.com web site, mobile apps and message boards along I-4 and I-95, showing truckers down the road how many empty spaces are available. The system should be running by spring.
We, at Orlando Truck Insurance, are committed to keep you well informed and prepared for changes like these. We all hope this effort pose a positive impact in helping the local transportation industry prevent loss of cargo among many other related constraints caused by the lack of adequate parking spaces while in our State.
Wednesday, September 20 2017
Orlando, Fla. — Cargo theft is an important topic in the trucking industry. Nearly every fleet will experience loss of cargo through theft in any given year.
What to do if you become a victim of this type of crime?
• First things first! File an immediate theft report with local authorities. You MUST have a theft report number to help law enforcement prosecute. Once you submit your theft, CargoNet will enter the event into their database for the purpose of supporting law enforcement in their recovery efforts and record for analytical purposes. If the theft details are robust, actionable and timely they will disseminate a theft alert through CargoNet’s Law Enforcement communication platform during normal business hours. Another benefit is the theft event data resides in the CargoNet database; where law enforcement and CargoNet analyst can attempt to match a victim with recovered products. The State of Florida maintains its own cargo theft database called the Electronic Freight Theft Management System. Entering your data into this system helps state and local law enforcement create BOLOs and other timely notification functions.
• Make sure you report the theft to both databases mentioned above in addition to the local crime report. Law enforcement will not do this for you, but it expands your reporting reach internationally.
• It is a good practice to keep photos of your vehicle on file, as well as bills of lading, vehicle value reports, etc. on hand to complete the report and for insurance purposes.
• Remember to include the value of the truck, trailer, cargo, and after-market equipment in the theft report. This helps raise the value of the theft and can make a big difference in the decision to prosecute and also important for your insurance company.
The cargo theft issue is so big, that there is no firm grasp across the country, and the world, on how big cargo theft really is,” said Sam Tucker, CEO of Atlanta-based consulting firm Carrier Risk Solutions. Tucker said many small trucking fleets he interacts with “have no idea about cargo theft or don’t care enough about it because they have not faced cargo theft themselves.”
A few things you can do to prevent this type of illegal activity are:
• Park your trucks away from the highway.
• Always be aware of your surroundings. If you see suspicious people on a cell phone following your truck through a rest area or truck stop, take precautions. It’s highly likely they are planning to steal your load.
• Cases of double- and triple-brokering loads are vulnerable because this introduces more people into the transaction. They may have the details of your route, value, etc.
• Avoid freight holdovers for multiple days. Weekends, or Friday through Sunday are especially dangerous in terms of cargo theft.
• Utilize secured lots as much as possible for rest brakes and overnight parking.
• Always use a locking kingpin with a unique combination/key if possible.
• It is always a good idea to establish a good relationship with local law enforcement in the jurisdictions where you tend to park most frequently, including your home base. Having contact information on hand facilitates the process of reporting.
• Use the latest technologies for load tracking, driver reporting, etc.
• Last but not least, don’t forget to perform a thorough background check on potential hires. You must obtain a criminal history for every position.
Wednesday, August 16 2017
Orlando, Fla. — We live and work where most people consider the land of opportunity. Owning a highly productive business requires discipline, knowledge and compliance.
When you own a tow trucking business, you may be seen as a hero when a family or person is in trouble while in the road, be it an accident or just a flat tire. Your role is very important for those involved in the situation and those others also indirectly affected because your quick response may be the difference between getting in time or not, to their destination.
The story is written a little different when it comes to vehicle removals from unauthorized parking spots.
As stated in the 2017 Florida Statutes, the towing or removal of any vehicle or vessel from private property without the consent of the registered owner or other legally authorized person in control of that vehicle or vessel is subject to strict compliance with a series of conditions and restrictions.
For example, when a person improperly causes a vehicle or vessel to be removed, such person shall be liable to the owner or lessee of the vehicleor vessel for the cost of removal, transportation, and storage; any damages resulting from the removal, transportation, or storage of the vehicle or vessel; attorney’s fees; and court costs.
When towing is perceived as an aggressive business practice in certain areas, local authorities may take action to prevent potential abuse against customers. That was the case in the International Drive, where customers (tourists in many instances) had dinner in one place and decided to take a stroll around the shopping area only to find their car had been removed with all the inconveniences that brings.
Orange County imposed new rules that took effect Nov. 1, 2015 — and were intended to stop predatory towing and lessen the headaches for unlucky motorists who had their vehicles dragged away.
The new rules require that tow-away zone signs direct motorists to a county website for information about their rights when they have been towed.
As much as you are seen as a hero in certain circumstances, tow-away situations will make you the villain of the movie.
If that wasn’t enough, as a tow truck driver you work in a dangerous world. Having to deal with angry drivers everyday, dangerous driving and road conditions, near misses while operating heavy equipment, and close calls on U.S. freeways while hitching up wrecked vehicles.
Another important issue is an insurance market with fewer and fewer carriers willing to write the business because of the continuing challenges in commercial auto liability which range from distracted driving to increased miles driven and vehicles on the road to higher vehicle repair costs and rising severity in liability claims. Tow trucks are no exception.
Given the situation, some insurance carriers made a profit and exited, some others lost money and exited, and some decided they didn’t want to write the class of business anymore.
Does that mean you need to run your business unprotected? — No.
You just need to find the right insurance specialist who will find you the carriers and options that will help you continue your business uninterruptedly. A local agent, as an expert in your area, can help you mitigate the effect of new ordinances, laws and regulations on your current insurance needs.
Wednesday, July 19 2017
Orlando, Fla. - As the 2017 FTA Annual Conference in Hollywood, FL approaches, it is considered a great opportunity to think and talk about the challenges affecting this important industry which impacts directly or indirectly everyone’s life.
It would be accurate to state that: without trucks, the United States of America stops!
August 3-4, 2017
As you know, everyday millions of drivers and their trucks travel across the nation to deliver products that help you live a normal everyday life. It is easy forget how indispensable the trucking industry is. It truly keeps our country and economy moving.
• Trucks drive economic growth and jobs in America—in fact, the industry currently supports almost 7 million jobs, including 3.5 million professional drivers.
• Today, there are more than 30,000 job openings in the trucking industry.
• Trucks stimulate economic activity in every sector of the American economy—including health care, fuel and transportation, waste removal, retail, food and agriculture, manufacturing, banking and finance, and many others.
• Trucking provides the greater majority of shipping services and movement of goods in the United States. More than 80 percent of U.S. communities rely solely on trucking for delivery of goods.
• Trucking is mostly made up of small businesses – with 90 percent operating six or fewer trucks.
The Trucking Moves America Forward organization promotes an effort to create a positive image for the industry, ensure that policymakers and the public understand the importance of the trucking industry to the nation’s economy, and to build the political and grassroots support necessary to strengthen and grow the industry in the future.
One issue that always comes to mind is accident prevention. According to the National Safety Council the State of Florida has earned a “D” on this subject.
A new report from the National Safety Council (NSC) found revealed that States, and Florida is not an exception, don’t do enough to prevent deaths and injuries on the road, whether in their homes and communities or at work. NSC’s report, The State of Safety, details issues state-by-state in an assessment of how well Americans are protected from risk. Fatalities from poisonings (including drug overdoses), motor vehicle crashes, falls, drowning, choking and fires have increased by 7% since 2014, NSC cited statistically, and are claiming more than 146,000 lives every year.
The right insurance coverage is key to maintain your business’ ability to respond to the unexpected.
The below is a sample list of some commercial vehicles that we help you protect with insurance:
• Box Trucks
• Dump Trucks
• Flatbed Trucks
• Front Loaders
• Garbage Trucks
• Pickup Trucks (with standard or commercial beds)
• Cement and Pump Trucks
• Refrigerated Box Trucks
• Roll-on Vehicles
• Semi Trucks
• Stake Body Trucks
• Straight Trucks
• Tank Trucks
• Tow Trucks
• Vocational Trucks
• Tractor Trailers
The best part yet, is that you are not stuck with a single insurer. We do offer a wide selection of carriers who specialize in your industry and are aware of issues and offer the right products to help you find the best solution for your trucking business.
Feel free to contact one of our insurance experts to discuss the policy and coverage that best serves your type of business.
Sunday, May 10 2015
Shopping for auto insurance?
The price you pay for your auto insurance can vary by hundreds of dollars, depending on your driving record, the type of car you have and the insurance company you buy your policy from. Here is a list of things you can do to save money.
Before you buy a car, compare insurance costs
Your premium is based in part on the car's sticker price, the cost to repair it, its overall safety record and the likelihood of theft. Many insurers offer discounts for features that reduce the risk of injuries or theft, such as air bags, anti-lock brakes, daytime running lights and anti-theft devices.
For more information on car safety, check the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Cars that are favorite targets for thieves cost more to insure. For more information on car theft, check the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).
Ask for a higher deductible
Your deductible is the amount of money you pay out-of-pocket before your insurance policy kicks in. By requesting higher deductibles, you can lower your costs substantially. For example, increasing your deductible from $200 to $500 could reduce your collision and comprehensive coverage premium by 15 to 30 percent. Going to a $1,000 deductible can save you 40 percent or more. However, keep in mind that you'll need to have the amount of the deductible on hand should something happen to your car.
Reduce coverage in older cars
Consider dropping collision and/or comprehensive coverage on older cars. It may not be cost-effective to continue insuring cars worth less than 10 times the amount you would pay for coverage. Any claim payment you receive would not substantially exceed your premiums minus the deductible. Claims occur on average only once every 11 or 12 years. Auto dealers and banks can tell you the worth of a car, or you can look it up online at Kelley Blue Book.
Buy your homeowners and auto coverage from the same insurer
Many insurers will give you a discount if you buy two or more types of insurance from them. Also, you may get a reduction if you have more than one vehicle insured with the same company. Some insurers reduce premiums for long-time customers. But shop around carefully; you may still save more money buying from a different insurance company even with the multi-policy discount.
Take advantage of low-mileage discounts
Some companies offer discounts to motorists who drive a lower than average number of miles per year. Low mileage discounts can also apply to drivers who carpool to work.
Ask about group insurance
You may be eligible to get insurance through a group plan from your employer, or through professional, business and alumni groups or other associations. Group plans often provide substantial discounts. Ask your employer, or any groups or clubs of which you are a member, about this option.
Maintain good credit
Your credit rating may affect what you pay for insurance, so monitor it carefully. You can get this information directly from the three major credit-rating agencies (Equifax, Experian, Trans Union). There are also various Web sites that allow you to check your credit rating and provide tips on how to improve your score.
Seek out safe driver discounts
Most insurance companies offer discounts to policyholders who have not had any accidents or moving violations for a number of years. You may also qualify for a cut if you have recently taken a defensive driving course, if you are over 50 and retired, or if there is a young driver on the policy who is a good student, has taken a drivers education course or is away at a college, generally at least 100 miles away.
When you comparison shop, be sure to inquire about discounts for the following (availability will vary according to the state and company):
But don't forget that the key to savings is not the discounts but the final price. A company that offers few discounts may still have a lower overall price.
Monday, April 20 2015
Shopping for your dream house?
It’s important to keep insurance in mind throughout the home buying process. Most lenders won’t provide a mortgage without insurance coverage. Your insurance company or agent, together with your realtor, can help you get what you want – a good home that is properly protected.
EVEN BEFORE YOU START LOOKING FOR A HOME
Put yourself in the best possible position to be able to afford a home, receive the lowest possible mortgage rate and get insurance for your new house. This takes advance preparation on your part.
Check your credit rating
Good credit helps you in many ways, including getting a mortgage at a good rate. Depending on the state and the insurer, it may also help you save money on your homeowners insurance. Get a copy of one or all of your credit reports. Make sure they are accurate and report any mistakes immediately. The credit report helps you see how your credit standing compares to others. If your credit is not as good as it should be, begin to improve it immediately.
Check your home insurance claims-filing history
Get a copy of your loss history report, such as a CLUE report from ChoicePoint or an A-PLUS report from ISO. This is a record of home insurance claims you have filed. If you have not filed any insurance claims in the past five years, you will not have a loss history report. The better your claim record, the less you may pay for insurance. A good claims record can also be important if you are selling the home you are currently living in. However, a past claim does not have to be a problem; the reulting repairs or improvements, if done properly, can make a property more attractive to buyers and insurers.
If you are currently renting, it’s important to have insurance for your personal property. Your landlord’s coverage will not cover the things you own. If you haven’t owned a home before, it might be helpful to have a history of insurance when you go to buy your first home.
As you look at homes, remember that characteristics of the house (where it is, how it's constructed and the kind of shape it’s in) can send your insurance rates up or down.
Construction of the house
If you plan to live near the Atlantic or Gulf coasts, consider a brick home because it is more resistant to hurricanes. If you are buying in a seismically active region, look for newer homes built to current codes, or older homes that have been bolted to their foundations. They are better able to withstand earthquakes.
Age of the house
Older homes sometimes have features such as plaster walls, ceiling molding and wooden floors that could be costly to replace. Such special features may raise the cost of insurance. Also, an older home that has been updated to comply with current building codes is typically less expensive to insure than an older home that is not up-to-date.
Condition of roof and home
If you are considering a “fixer upper,” you may pay more for insurance until clear improvements are made. In particular, check out the condition of the roof. A new roof in good repair will be attractive to insurers and will save you money as well as aggravation.
These systems can wear out, become unsafe with age or become dated as safer technologies are introduced. Recent upgrades make your home safer and less likely to suffer fire or water damage.
Homes equipped with smoke, fire and burglar alarm systems that alert an outside service may get sizeable discounts. Strong doors, dead bolt locks and window locks may also reduce insurance costs.
You will need higher property and liability coverage if you are buying a home with features such as a pool or a wood burning stove. In the case of a pool, consider getting additional coverage, such as an umbrella or excess liability policy.
Homes near a fire station, those with a hydrant close by and those located in communities with a professional rather than volunteer fire department will cost less to insure.
Homes near the coast will be more expensive to insure because the risk of hurricane, wind or water damage is greater. In many states, you will pay the first few thousand dollars in damage before your insurance kicks in. You also need to think about the threat of floods or earthquakes. You will need separate insurance for these risks and it can be costly. Also, around the country, there are high-risk areas vulnerable to hurricanes, brush fires or crime that might not qualify for private insurance. To make insurance available, there are state-sponsored Fair Access to Insurance Requirement (FAIR) Plans. FAIR Plans, however, can be expensive and provide less coverage.
PLACING A BID
You have looked at a number of properties and are narrowing your search to a few homes. Now you need to get more specific information on the house and its insurability.
Check the house’s loss history report
Ask the current homeowner for a copy of the house’s insurance loss history report. This will provide information regarding claims filed during the last five years and answer two questions that any savvy homebuyer should ask: Are there any past problems in the home? If damage has occurred, was it properly repaired? Prior claims are not barriers to getting insurance, but you should know the history of the home before you go to closing.
Get the house inspected
A thorough inspection of the home is very important. The inspector should: check the general condition of the home; show you where potential problems might develop; double-check that past problems have been repaired; and suggest upgrades or replacements that may be needed. If a house has been well-maintained, you should have no trouble getting insurance. However, if the inspector raises questions, your insurance company will as well. In particular, have the inspector check for water damage, termites and other types of infestation. Special attention should be paid to the electrical system, septic tank and water heater. Find out if there is an underground oil storage tank, as many insurers will not provide policies for homes that have one.
Contact your insurance professional
Don’t wait until the last minute to think about insurance. Ask your current insurance professional if the house will qualify for insurance and get an estimate of the premium. The sooner you act, the smoother the process will be. If you do not have an insurance agent or company representative, get recommendations from family, friends or co-workers. Select someone you know and trust, as he or she will be an advisor for many years.
Shop around for the best coverage
Most people spend months looking for a house, but only spend a few minutes insuring it. Insurance companies sell insurance in different ways – some through their own agents, others through independent agents or brokers and still others directly by phone or over the internet. Select the arrangement that you are most comfortable with. Get the names of several highly regarded insurers. The higher the financial rating, the better prepared they will be if a real disaster strikes. Then compare prices – it could cut hundreds of dollars off the cost of your bill.
PURCHASING THE HOUSE AND INSURANCE
Congratulations, you are set to purchase your new home. Now you want to be sure you are getting the right insurance coverage at the lowest possible price.
Take the highest deductible you can afford
The higher the deductible, the lower the premium. Since most people only file a claim every eight to ten years, you will save money over time and preserve your insurance for when it’s really needed.
Ask about available discounts for:
Get enough insurance to:
Ask about additional coverage such as:
Damage caused by flooding and earthquakes is not covered by standard homeowners insurance policies. Instead, homeowners will need to pay an additional premium for coverage that is provided through the government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). To get flood insurance, your community must participate in the NFIP program. Policies for coastal properties will have a sizeable windstorm deductible, which means the homeowner may be responsible for thousands of dollars of damage before insurance kicks in. It pays to know what is in your policy. Earthquake insurance is offered by private insurance companies. In California, coverage is available through the California Earthquake Authority, a state program, as well as the private market. It can be expensive and comes with a high deductible.
AFTER YOU PURCHASE YOUR NEW HOME
Properly maintain the house
Maintain your home as you would your car. Every year, there are important things you should do to reduce the chance that you will experience water damage, fire or other insured loss. Insurance does not pay for routine maintenance or damage resulting from neglect. The cost for proper care should be calculated into your overall budget. It’s your responsibility to be the “risk manager” for your home. If you do your part to reduce insurance losses, not only will your home be safer, it will also save you money on your insurance bill.
Keep insurance up-to-date
Let your insurer know about alterations, additions and improvements to your home. Major purchases and lifestyle changes such as a marriage or divorce should trigger a call to your insurance professional. This way, you can maximize your insurance dollars by not being either under- or over-insured.
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