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Understanding Primary Liability Insurance: Coverage for Trucking Incidents

Understanding Primary Liability Insurance: Coverage for Trucking Incidents

In the trucking industry, insurance premiums hinge on multiple factors. Grasping these aids in cost management. Factors like routes, operation areas, and safety records play pivotal roles in determining rates. 

Prioritizing safety can reduce risks and lower premiums. This guide delves into primary liability insurance, contrasting it with general liability, highlighting coverage types, and elucidating the influences on premium calculations.

Table of Contents

Importance of Primary Liability Insurance for Trucking Companies

Primary Liability Insurance is essential for trucking companies, providing protection against legal and financial liabilities from accidents involving their vehicles. This insurance covers liabilities stemming from injuries to third parties or damage to their property. 

In essence, if a company's driver is at fault in an accident, this insurance handles legal defense costs and compensates damages up to the policy limit. Mandated by federal and state regulations and often by shippers and brokers, it doesn't cover company property damages or driver injuries.

The trucking industry is intrinsically associated with the potential for accidents and damage, given the size of vehicles and the nature of transportation services. As a result, Primary Liability Insurance plays a crucial role in mitigating the risks and liabilities faced by trucking companies. Here are some of the reasons why this type of insurance is essential:

  1. Financial Protection: Primary Liability Insurance prevents trucking businesses from facing huge financial losses as a result of claims made against them. Without it, a company may have to pay for damages out of pocket, which could cripple their financial stability.

  2. Legal Requirement: Most states and federal regulations mandate trucking companies to carry Primary Liability Insurance. Failure to comply can result in fines, penalties, or even suspension of the company's operating authority.

  3. Business Reputation: Accidents can tarnish the image of a trucking business, but having proper insurance coverage in place demonstrates a commitment to safety and adherence to regulatory requirements. This helps instill confidence in clients and may lead to better business opportunities.

Minimum Coverage Requirements for Trucking Companies

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires trucking companies to maintain at least the following minimum levels of primary liability coverage:

  1. $300,000 for non-hazardous freight transported in vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 10,001 pounds or more.

  2. $750,000 for general freight transportation.

  3. $1,000,000 for transport of oil or hazardous materials.

  4. $5,000,000 for the transport of hazardous substances that would require placarding.

These requirements may vary depending on the type of cargo being transported, and individual states may have additional regulations in place. To ensure compliance, it is crucial for trucking companies to understand and adhere to these coverage requirements.

Difference Between Primary Liability Insurance and General Liability Insurance

While Primary Liability Insurance and General Liability Insurance may seem similar at first glance, they cover different aspects of a trucking company's operations. Here are the key differences between the two:

  • Primary Liability Insurance specifically covers accidents caused by a trucker's vehicle while engaged in transportation services. It covers damages to third parties caused by the company's vehicle during the course of business operations.

  • General Liability Insurance, on the other hand, provides broader coverage that includes protection against non-auto-related incidents, such as accidents that occur on the company's premises or during the loading and unloading of cargo.

To ensure full protection against a range of potential liabilities, trucking companies should consider combining both primary liability insurance and general liability insurance in their coverage plans. This will help safeguard their businesses from any unforeseen incidents and resulting financial losses.

Types of Incidents Covered by Primary Liability Insurance

Bodily Injury Liability

One of the primary components of any liability insurance policy is coverage for bodily injury. Bodily injury liability insurance provides compensation to individuals injured in an accident for which you are held responsible. 

It serves as a financial protection for you by covering the costs of medical bills, lost wages, and other damages experienced by the injured parties. This insurance is essential for all drivers and business owners, as it helps protect them in case of accidents and potentially expensive legal battles.

Medical Expenses for Injured Parties

In the event of an accident resulting in injury, primary liability insurance will cover the medical expenses incurred by the injured parties. This may include hospital stays, surgeries, medications, physical therapy, rehabilitation, and more. The insurance policy will typically pay for these expenses up to the policy's specified limits, helping to ensure that injured individuals receive the medical care they need without putting undue financial burden on the at-fault party.

Loss of Income Compensation

If an accident results in severe injuries that prevent an individual from working, the impact on their financial stability can be devastating. Primary liability insurance can provide compensation for lost wages, both past and future, to help alleviate the financial strain caused by the inability to work. This type of coverage can be especially important for self-employed individuals or those with limited access to short-term or long-term disability insurance, who may suffer significant income loss as a result of their injuries.

Pain and Suffering Damages

In some cases, accident victims may seek compensation for pain and suffering that goes beyond their specific financial losses. This can include physical pain, emotional distress, and mental anguish caused by the accident and subsequent injuries. Primary liability insurance may also cover pain and suffering damages, ensuring that the at-fault party is not left financially devastated by the aftermath of an accident.

Property Damage Liability

In addition to bodily injury, accidents may result in significant property damage. This damage can range from minor dents and scratches to total vehicle loss or structural damage to buildings. Property damage liability insurance, which is another essential component of primary liability insurance, provides coverage for these costs, preventing the at-fault party from shouldering the burden of repair or replacement expenses.

Repair or Replacement of Damaged Property

When an accident results in damaged property, whether that be another vehicle, a building, or other valuable items, primary liability insurance can cover the costs of repairing or replacing the damaged items. This can include costs related to obtaining estimates, labor and materials, and rental vehicles or temporary housing (if necessary) during the repair process.

Debris Removal and Clean-up Expenses

Accidents may leave behind debris or hazardous materials that require proper clean-up and disposal. Property damage liability insurance can cover these costs, ensuring that the at-fault party is not responsible for additional expenses related to accident clean-up and recovery efforts.

Loss of Use Compensation

In some cases, the property damaged in an accident, such as a vehicle or a building, may be unusable until repairs are completed. Primary liability insurance can provide compensation for this loss of use, which can help offset the costs of rental vehicles, alternative living arrangements, or other expenses related to the inability to use the damaged property.

In summary, primary liability insurance is crucial protection for individuals and businesses, covering various incidents, including bodily injury and property damage. This insurance offers financial security, ensuring that the costs of medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and property damages are not a crippling burden for the at-fault party.

Incidents Not Covered by Primary Liability Insurance

Primary liability insurance is a mandatory form of insurance for truck drivers and trucking businesses, as it covers the costs associated with property damage and bodily injuries resulting from accidents involving commercial trucks. However, there are certain incidents and situations that primary liability insurance will not cover. In this article, we will examine each of these incidents in detail.

Damage to the Insured's Own Vehicle

Liability insurance doesn't cover an insured party's vehicle damages. For their own vehicle's damages, truck owners need collision or comprehensive insurance. Collision insurance covers vehicle repair or replacement after an accident, regardless of fault. Meanwhile, comprehensive insurance protects against non-collision damages like theft, vandalism, or natural disasters, reimbursing up to the truck's actual cash value.

Injuries to the Truck Driver

Primary liability insurance covers third-party damages but not truck drivers' injuries. Truck drivers can use workers' compensation for work-related injuries, covering medical costs and some lost wages. Personal health insurance can fill gaps not covered by workers' compensation or when drivers aren't eligible for these benefits.

Incidents Involving Intentional Acts or Gross Negligence

Primary liability insurance doesn't cover intentional acts or gross negligence by insured truck drivers or businesses, such as deliberate accidents or regulation violations. Insurers may deny coverage or cancel policies for such acts, deeming them outside standard insurance coverage due to their unacceptable risks.

Environmental Damage or Pollution

Primary liability insurance often excludes coverage for environmental damages from truck accidents, such as hazardous cargo spills or fuel leaks. To safeguard against financial impacts of such claims, trucking businesses can opt for environmental liability insurance. This policy addresses cleanup costs, legal fees, and potential fines, crucial for companies transporting hazardous materials due to heightened regulatory risks.

Contractual Liability

Primary liability insurance usually doesn't cover contractual liability: when trucking businesses take on responsibility for damages via contracts with third parties. If they're liable due to contract terms, primary insurance won't cover the costs. Trucking businesses can acquire contractual liability insurance, often an endorsement to general liability or a separate umbrella policy, to shield against such claims.

Additional Trucking Insurance Coverage Types

For trucking businesses, appropriate insurance is vital to guard against unforeseen incidents. Consider these six additional trucking insurance types when choosing a policy.

Physical Damage Insurance

Physical damage insurance safeguards your truck from various incidents, including accidents and events like theft or weather. It encompasses two main types.

Collision Coverage

Collision coverage is designed to help cover the cost of repairing or replacing your truck if it's damaged in an accident involving another vehicle or object. This includes accidents where your truck rolls over, collides with a stationary object, or is involved in a hit-and-run. In some cases, it may also provide protection if your truck is damaged by an uninsured or underinsured driver.

Comprehensive Coverage

Comprehensive coverage offers broader protection for your truck by covering damages caused by events other than a collision. This can include theft, vandalism, fires, hail, flooding, and falling objects. Comprehensive coverage also helps pay for damages to your truck resulting from natural disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes.

Bobtail Insurance

Bobtail insurance, also known as non-trucking liability insurance, is a type of coverage that protects your truck when it's not being used for business purposes. This can include situations where your truck is being driven without a trailer, while running personal errands, or when you're driving between loads. Bobtail insurance offers liability protection for property damage and bodily injury claims resulting from non-business related accidents while your truck is on the road.

Motor Truck Cargo Insurance

Motor truck cargo insurance is designed to protect you from the financial risks associated with the goods you haul during transportation. This type of coverage offers protection for the cargo you're transporting if it's damaged or lost due to accidents, theft, fire, or natural disasters. Some policies may also offer coverage for cargo storage, debris removal, and pollutant clean-up costs after an accident. It's essential to ensure you have adequate coverage limits based on the type and value of the cargo you typically transport.

Workers' Compensation Insurance

If you have employees, you'll want to consider workers' compensation insurance. This type of coverage provides financial benefits to your employees if they're injured or become ill while performing their job duties. Workers’ compensation insurance typically covers medical expenses, lost wages, and other benefits for injured employees, regardless of who was at fault for the incident.

Having workers' compensation insurance is not only beneficial for your employees but can protect your business as well. Many states require businesses with employees to carry this type of coverage to avoid potential penalties and fines.

Umbrella or Excess Liability Insurance

Umbrella or excess liability insurance offers extra protection beyond primary liability limits like auto liability and workers' compensation. It safeguards against major incidents resulting in significant claims against your trucking business, covering expenses like legal defense and court settlements that surpass your main coverage limits. Essential for maintaining financial stability during high-dollar claims.

Factors Affecting Primary Liability Insurance Premiums

Primary liability insurance covers truck-caused damages to others. Premiums are determined by various factors that insurance companies evaluate.

Size and Type of Trucking Company

Insurance premiums for trucking companies vary based on company size and cargo type. Larger companies with more vehicles face higher premiums due to increased accident risks. Additionally, the nature of goods, especially hazardous or flammable materials, can elevate premiums due to associated risks. Even transporting perishable items can influence costs.

Truck Driver's Experience and Training

Driver experience and training significantly influence trucking insurance premiums. Experienced drivers with a clean record often result in lower rates, while companies with novice or accident-prone drivers may see higher premiums. Insurance providers can offer discounts to companies investing in safety-focused driver training programs, as this demonstrates a commitment to risk reduction.

Vehicle Age and Condition

The age and condition of trucks influence insurance premiums. Older or poorly-maintained vehicles risk mechanical issues leading to accidents, increasing premiums. However, equipping trucks with safety features like anti-lock brakes or collision avoidance systems can reduce accident risks and premiums. Insurance discounts might be available for trucks with GPS and telematics, aiding in driver behavior monitoring.

Distance and Areas of Operation

Truck routes and operational regions affect insurance premiums. Trucks traveling longer distances or through congested urban zones face higher risks, thus potentially raising premiums. Operations in areas with extreme weather like hurricanes or heavy snow also present higher risks.

Prior Accident and Claim History

Companies' accident and claim histories are pivotal in determining insurance rates. Those with multiple incidents may face higher premiums due to perceived risks. Conversely, businesses emphasizing safety, with driver training and vehicle maintenance, can often secure lower rates, highlighting the benefits of investing in safety and risk management.


1. What scenarios does primary liability insurance protect a truck driver from in the event of an accident?

Primary liability insurance covers truck drivers when involved in at-fault accidents causing bodily injury or property damage to other parties. It ensures compliance with state and federal regulations and may help protect assets in the event of a lawsuit.

2. Would primary liability insurance cover damage to a truck driver's vehicle and cargo during an incident?

Primary liability insurance typically does not cover damages to the driver's vehicle or cargo, as it focuses on third-party damages. Comprehensive or collision coverage is needed to cover a truck driver's vehicle and cargo.

3. Do truck drivers need primary liability coverage if they work as independent contractors or employees?

All truck drivers, whether independent contractors or employees, must have primary liability coverage to comply with state and federal regulations. It is a legal requirement for commercial truck drivers to protect against at-fault incidents.

4. In case of a non-collision incident, such as a falling object or weather-related damage, does primary liability insurance provide coverage?

Primary liability insurance generally does not cover non-collision incidents. This type of insurance focuses on the truck driver's legal responsibility for injury or damage caused to others. Non-collision incidents require comprehensive insurance coverage.

5. Can primary liability insurance cover claims resulting from hazardous materials or environmental damage due to a trucking accident?

Primary liability insurance may not cover claims related to hazardous materials or environmental damage. These specialized situations often require additional endorsements, such as pollution and hazardous materials liability coverage.


In the trucking industry, insurance premiums vary based on numerous factors. Understanding these can help companies strategically manage costs. Whether it's the routes chosen, the areas of operation, or the company's safety record, proactive measures can significantly influence premium rates. By prioritizing safety and operational efficiency, trucking businesses can not only ensure reduced risks but also enjoy financial benefits in the form of lower insurance premiums.

Are you interested in learning more about bodily injury liability in commercial trucking insurance? Learn more about it from our blogs at Assured Standard.

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