In the commercial transportation industry, semi trucks and trailers receive the most attention. These haulers account for millions of tons of cargo moved each year, including transport from manufacturing and shipping centers to retail locations throughout the United States. Semi trucks are not the only commercial vehicles used for transportation, however; flatbed trucks are also a vital part of the commercial fleet. Fleet owners know that flatbed truck insurance is a critical component of risk management. To enhance the coverage afforded by this insurance, flatbed truckers and owners must gain an understanding of the risks inherent in this vehicle form. Here is a look at the common risks flatbed truckers face in their daily operations.
Flatbed Trucks: An Overview
Before delving into the hazards faced by flatbed truckers and fleet owners and owner-operators, it can be valuable to learn about the role of flatbed trucks in the commercial transportation sector. As the name implies, a flatbed truck is equipped with a flat steel, wood, or aluminum “bed” in lieu of a cargo box or other enclosure. Flatbed trucks and similar vehicles are commonly employed to move items that are too large to fit in a cargo container, such as:
- Heavy equipment and machinery
- Boats and marine vessels
- Oversized loads
- Construction materials
While these vehicles began to fall out of favor in the 1980s, they still perform an important role in cargo transportation. In particular, flatbed trucks are commonly used as towing vehicles and anywhere an oversized or unusual load must be transported.
Risks Inherent in Flatbed Truck Operations
Due to their nature as open-topped trucks, flatbed trucks and truckers face several unique risks. Cargo loads may also be at risk from damage or loss, necessitating robust flatbed truck insurance to provide the needed liability protection.
Common risks of flatbed trucks include:
Failure of straps or tiedowns – on most flatbeds, cargo is secured by ratchet straps. If these straps were to become loose or broken, cargo could shift, causing the truck’s center of gravity to also shift. In worst-case scenarios, cargo could fall off the truck, causing severe damage or loss.
Exposure damage – the open nature of flatbed trucks means that any cargo is susceptible to strikes from falling or blown objects. The exposed cargo is also at increased risk of weather-related damage such as ice or moisture.
Overhead or overhang strikes – flatbed trucks are often used to haul loads that will not fit in a cargo container. Oversized loads may overhang the sides of the truck’s bed, and may also exceed normal operating height. Striking objects such as road signs, bridges and overpasses, and other vehicles on roads happen frequently, resulting in property damage, injury, and cargo loss.
Blind spots – related to the oversized loads these vehicles often carry, flatbed trucks may have significant blind spots, preventing the driver from detecting overtaking vehicles or roadside objects. Blind spot accidents include both side-swipe and right-turn collisions.
Mechanical failures – mechanical issues are not unique to flatbeds; however, a failure of vehicle systems like tire blowouts, hydraulic bed lifting, or frame supports can cause the cargo load to shift or to become separated from the vehicle itself. This, of course, leads to property damage, cargo loss, and injuries or deaths.
Jackknife accidents – some flatbed trucks are equipped with articulated cargo beds. Just like with semi trucks, driver error or poor road conditions can allow the articulating bed to swing wildly from side to side, potentially leading to rollover crashes as the bed’s weight pulls the truck cab over.
The Role of Flatbed Truck Insurance
Flatbed truck insurance is a fundamental part of risk management for fleet owners and operators. These insurance policies offer broad protections against property and cargo damage or loss. Most also include liability coverage, protecting the business owners and vehicle owners from the expenses associated with claims. Fleet operations depend on the peace of mind afforded by commercial truck insurance, allowing them to continue to provide vital cargo hauling services across the United States.
About Gain Insurance Agency
Gain Insurance Agency protects trucking businesses against liabilities and claims in the industry. We combine products provided by respected insurance providers with our expertise and custom packages to meet customers’ individual needs. Our goal is to give you the coverage that you need at the lowest possible price. To learn more about our products and services, contact us today at (877) 424-3344.