Emerging risks in commercial and heavy motor fleet insurance

THE commercial motor Insurance market is constantly facing new risks, from the uniquely-Australian phenomena of flying kangaroos and the rise of ‘flash tradies’ to emerging forms of criminal endeavour and declining manufacturing quality. It’s important that brokers and their clients understand how these emerging risks can affect insurance premiums.

Macropod collisions
The return to favourable seasons means the size of the kangaroo population has increased significantly, posing a steady threat of vehicle collisions, even in urban areas. As an aside, European car manufacturers have faced the unusual problem of developing software that can identify the unusual bound of the kangaroo rather than the four-legged gait of deer, moose and other animal risks in the northern hemisphere. These technologies make certainly make vehicles safer, but often result in much more damage from front or side kangaroo impacts.

Flash tradies’
There has been a huge adoption of ‘luxury utes’ by businesspeople in recent years following changes to fringe benefit taxation rules. Once the king of the high-end utility market, the Toyota Hilux SR5 is being challenged by European contenders, such as the VW Amarok and Mercedes Benz X Class, along with American style “muscle” utes. Insurers and brokers will have to deal with the impact of the higher repair costs of these brands as they start to become more common in fleet schedules. The days of $700 premiums for a tradie’s ute are long gone, just like Australian-made Holden and Ford utes.

Exhaust theft is not just hot air
The progressive introduction of emissions reduction systems in heavy motor vehicles in recent years has given rise to a new expression of criminal endeavour. With catalytic convertor systems costing upwards of $12,000 to replace, the targeted theft of exhaust systems from truck yards and dealerships has increased dramatically. A simple way to mitigate this risk is to spot-weld the attachment bolts holding the exhaust units in place.

Heavy metal fatigue
The declining quality of metal alloys used by some overseas manufacturers has significantly reduced the life span of many hard-working machines, such as concrete pumps and reach stackers. Many insurers have identified these problem makes and models, and cover is becoming harder and more expensive to source.

Smashing repair costs
With the huge amount of infrastructure projects being undertaken in Australia, many construction companies are using attenuators (vehicle-mounted crash barriers) to protect the safety of workers near high-speed roadways. These units are remarkably effective but incredibly expensive to repair after being hit by a speeding vehicle.

There’s no such thing as ‘free’ windscreens
It is no secret that windscreen suppliers have long encouraged their customers to claim the cost of windscreen repairs or replacement from their insurance policy. These replacements are often undertaken without any assessment or alternative quotes being obtained. Until a few years ago, the cost of windscreen claims generally amounted to a few hundred dollars, meaning many insurers were happy to offer an excess-free benefit. However, modern windscreens now incorporate all sorts of technology, such as vision, temperature, light and rain sensors, meaning replacement costs are now several thousand dollars. These increased costs have had a direct and substantial effect on premiums.

Or ‘free’ hire cars
In addition to third-party demands for repairs of their vehicle(s), unscrupulous credit hire companies are now making exorbitant demands for the supply of hire or replacement vehicles to innocent third-parties. Whilst most clients and the insurance industry are willing to accept liability for the fair cost of ‘making good’, gouging the insurance policies of ‘at fault’ clients is creating an unprecedented expense that will ultimately be built into premiums. For example, we recently received a demand for $45,000 in car hire charges following damage to a 2014 Audi Q7, which was more than the pre-accident value of the damaged unit!

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