Why Insurance Companies Need a Letter of Experience for Heavy Vehicles
August 2, 2022
Safety is a big concern for heavy truck drivers who work long hours and drive in all weather conditions. Safety is also a major concern for the companies they work for and all the other drivers on Canada’s roadways. A driver’s letter of experience protects everyone.
Around 90% of all food products and consumer goods in Canada are shipped by heavy truck operators. Because of a recent increase in demand for heavy truck drivers, Canada is currently facing a shortage of qualified drivers that are capable of driving big rigs.
Over the last 10 years, the number of heavy trucks on Canadian roads has increased from 740,000 to over 1,200,000. Canadian auto insurance companies are doing their part to keep everyone safe while driving.
What Is a Driver Letter of Experience?
Most drivers may not be familiar with a letter of experience. A letter of experience is a document that confirms a heavy truck driver is properly insured. Moreover, a letter of experience verifies whether or not a driver has had moving violations, non-moving violations, and insurance claims.
Every heavy truck driver in Canada must show proof of a letter of experience when they work for a trucking company. But how do they get one? A truck driver gets a letter of experience by asking their employer to provide one. The actual letter comes from the commercial insurance company that insured the driver, and a driver can request one at any time.
Semi-truck drivers and other heavy truck drivers must have a letter that shows their driving experience from the last three years. The letter must also indicate that the driver has experience driving the same type of vehicle shown on the letter.
It is a good idea for truck drivers to learn which insurance company insures them while they are transporting goods. Drivers who ask their employer for a copy of their letter of experience as soon as they accept employment will always have an updated copy of their insurance.
In the event they choose to work for a different trucking company, it will save them a lot of time and hassle when getting a letter from the new company.
Why Do Insurance Companies Ask for a Letter of Experience?
Both trucking companies and commercial auto insurance companies that insure them need to know as much information as possible about a driver’s driving record, license status, driving convictions, demerit points, and the vehicles they are certified to drive.
Simply put, a letter of experience serves as a letter of reference. It tells a driver’s new employer whether they have had accidents, tickets, or insurance claims of any kind. The letter also tells a new employer how long the driver has been insured with a particular company.
Trucking companies must have due diligence in making sure the drivers they employ can operate a truck safely and with expertise. To ensure safety, trucking companies often have additional requirements for truck drivers. It is also common for trucking companies to require their drivers to take training in vehicle handling and driver safety protocols. The requirement of a letter of experience protects trucking companies.
A letter of experience is also of value to the insurance company of a driver’s new employer. The new insurance company will fact-check the information on the letter of experience with the information the truck driver provided to the employer. If the facts match, it indicates the truck driver is honest.
The new insurance company asks for a letter with the last three years on it for a specific reason. If a new driver gets into an accident, the letter of experience could be entered into evidence in a court of law as the insurance company moves to defend the driver in a lawsuit where another driver alleges the truck driver is at fault.
Facts and Statistics for Heavy Trucks in Canada
The trucking industry in Canada is comprised of owner-operator truck drivers, private companies that operate truck fleets that carry goods they produce themselves, and for-hire truck drivers who transport goods for various companies.
Roadway safety is a major concern in Canada. Trucking statistics show truck drivers deliver over 63 million shipments every year. The trucking industry is over a $39 billion industry, and it continues to grow. In 2018, the Canadian trucking industry employed 312,000 heavy truck drivers. This is an increase of 55,000 truck drivers since 2000.
As of 2021, there was a shortage of over 18,000 truck drivers nationally. According to the Women’s Trucking Federation of Canada, approximately 3% of Canada’s truck drivers are female.
The trucking industry also includes heavy truck manufacturers. Canada produces three times the number of cars. As of 2019, the truck manufacturing industry produced over 1.4 million heavy trucks. Truck sales grew 52% between 2014 and 2019, and the sales amounted to 69 billion Canadian dollars. The trucking industry anticipates an increased growth in sales within the next several years.
Heavy Truck Crashes Can Be Serious
Canada is the second-largest country in the world, and its highways cover 900,000 kilometers. Crashes commonly occur along every stretch of road. The Canadian government is committed to improving the safety of heavy trucks on roadways and doing what it can to decrease truck involvement in accidents. Experience and expertise are necessary for drivers of heavy trucks because of the weight of the trucks along with the weight of the freight they are carrying.
The cab of a semi-truck alone can weigh up to 25,000 pounds. When a driver attaches a trailer loaded with goods, the weight can increase to over 130,000 pounds. That is a massive amount of weight for a driver to control.
Almost 2,000 Canadian lives are lost every year in crashes that involve vehicles weighing over 12,000 pounds in gross weight. Another 10,000 people sustain serious injuries in crashes involving heavy trucks. The fatality rate for crashes in Canada is double the rate for all other vehicles when considering the distance traveled.
Several notable things contribute to crashes involving heavy trucks in Canada. Trucking industry experts attribute some crashes to driver error, equipment failure, and other drivers on the road.
At times, truck drivers have to drive under extremely stressful conditions. It is common for drivers to drive all night long. They are often sleep-deprived as they strive to arrive at their destinations on time. To compound their stress levels more, truck drivers are typically underpaid considering the expertise their jobs require.
Stressful conditions can cause a human error that can easily cause a crash. While truck drivers should not consume alcohol or take drugs while driving, crash reports show that some drivers hit the road while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The race to meet shipping expectations often motivates drivers to speed or take curves too quickly, which leads to accidents. Inexperience behind the wheel of a heavy truck can lead to rollover crashes, which can be deadly. Distracted driving or texting while driving is also a problem connected to crashes involving trucks.
Heavy trucks are designed to carry huge loads. While truck manufacturers take great care in building safe vehicles, mechanical failures do occur. Tires blow out, engines fail, and brakes can fail as well.
Beyond human errors and equipment failures, other drivers on the road also contribute to truck crashes. Passenger vehicles and small trucks may cut off a heavy truck to get in front of them. It is not as easy to slow a heavy truck down as it is for smaller vehicles, and truck drivers cannot always stop quickly. Truck drivers also need more room while making left turns than other drivers.
When a heavy truck has to stop or slow down suddenly, the cargo in the truck can shift, causing the driver to lose control. The people who nearly always suffer a life-changing injury or fatality are usually the driver or passenger of a vehicle that is not a heavy truck.
The Canadian Owner-Operators’ Cooperative (COOC) works to help its members lower their operating costs such as the cost of fuel, maintenance, tires, and commercial insurance. They are also heavily involved in ensuring road safety.
Drivers of heavy trucks need a letter of experience any time they move to another province, change trucking companies, or have a lapse in auto insurance. Drivers who move to Canada from another country will also need a letter of experience.
The information listed on a letter of experience may help drivers qualify for insurance discounts, which could save them and the companies they work for money. Commercial insurance companies often offer discounts for having no claims, no tickets, and customer loyalty.
To learn more about insurance for drivers of heavy trucks, contact one of our insurance specialists at Duliban Insurance at 855-DULIBAN.