Captives

Lane Shift for Trucking Risk

A shrinking insurance market drives interest in captive solutions for the transportation industry.
By: | March 3, 2017 • 6 min read

Today there are more vehicles on America’s roads than before, driven by a trucking industry that grew exponentially to meet increased consumer demand.

Add in the advanced average age and subsequent deterioration in truckers’ health, the increased use of cell phones and more highway construction projects, and that resulted in a huge increase in accidents in recent years.

The number of crashes involving large trucks alone climbed by 9 percent between 2011 and 2014, according to the U.S. Transportation Department.

As a result, commercial auto insurance rates spiked, some by as much as 30 percent in 2016, and they are expected to climb further this year.

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Fitch also reported last year that the commercial auto sector is a “chronically underperforming segment” due to overly aggressive pricing and a steep rise in claims severity, prompting many insurers to pull out of the market.

All of these factors, when added to already tight margins and other economic pressures including driver costs, forced many trucking firms and companies with large vehicle fleets to turn to captives to spread their risks and reduce insurance costs.

Captives also provide access to ancillary lines of coverage and limits, return of underwriting profits, improved risk management practices and the ability to manage marketplace fluctuations.

Collateral Squeeze

Geoff Welsher, managing director at Marsh, who runs two offshore captives, said that the increased interest in captives for commercial auto insurance is driven by a combination of some insurers pulling out of the market and others increasing rates.

Of most interest, he said, were group captives specializing in trucking companies, which provide a greater level of investment in claims management and loss control than traditional insurance coverage achieves.

Gary Osborne
President
USA Risk Group

Many of these captives also put a larger percentage of their premium toward staff training and employ full-time risk control specialists, he said.

“In a group captive environment, there are all manner of board and safety meetings and benchmarks against which companies can measure themselves,”
he said.

Rob Kibbe, executive director of Aon Risk Solutions’ transportation practice, said that these kinds of captives appeal most to companies seeking a return on their investment in safety technology.

He added that they also allowed owners to control their own rates and achieve greater risk rewards than with traditional coverage.

Todd Reiser, vice president and producer in Lockton’s transportation practice, said that the choice of captive depended on a range of factors including fleet size, ownership and corporate structure, tax considerations, credit capacity, estate planning and the number of owner-operators within the fleet.

“Single-parent captives allow for tax benefits, estate planning solutions, more efficient use of capital and the ability to write certain coverages in the captive independent of insurance market conditions,” he said.

“Risk retention groups and group captives, on the other hand, allow the members to share in certain risks, purchase reinsurance and potentially

limit the collateral obligations of traditional insurance.”

Chad Kunkel, executive vice president of group captives, North America at Artex, which manages more than 20 group captives or program solutions in the U.S., said that group captives are best suited to transportation companies wanting to lower their risk management costs.

“Good prospects for group captives are financially sound companies with above-average loss experience, good risk management practices and premiums beginning at $250,000 for workers’ compensation, general liability and auto lines of coverage,” he said.

“Group captives also offer another benefit — group purchasing power — which helps lower the overall cost of insurance for each member.”

Gary Osborne, president of USA Risk Group, said that RRGs are the most popular forms of captive because they allow owners to write insurance in all 50 states while only having to form in one.

Self-insurance also helps firms to reduce their collateral requirements and thus free up capital to invest in other parts of the business, he said.

Increased Interest

Such is their popularity, Kibbe said, that Aon almost doubled the number of captive formations in 2016 from the previous year and is continuing to see interest.

Most of the companies entering into captives are either smaller middle market trucking firms joining or forming their own group captives in order to take higher retentions, or large firms looking to reserve properly, said Sean Rider, executive vice president and managing director of consulting and development at Willis Towers Watson.

Vermont is one of the most popular states for setting up a captive, with more than one-quarter of active captives domiciled there writing some form of auto liability.

In total, Vermont houses six registered risk retention groups, two industrial insured group captives and four “pure” captives for trucking firms.

David Provost, deputy commissioner at Vermont’s Captive Insurance Division, said these ranged from auto wholesalers to large trucking companies with their own or several captives, as well as group companies that insure either their members or the association, or those operating as commercial trucking insurance companies for their truckers.

“Some of these larger trucking companies have to post multimillion dollar policies and prove that they have the financial assurance to operate a trucking company, so it’s often beneficial for them to do that with a captive,” he said.

Technological Advances

Safety technology also helps businesses to mitigate these risks by monitoring driver speeds, behavior and work practices.

In recent years, telematics has been one of the most effective ways to improve safety and bring down premiums, typically by 5 percent to 15 percent, according to industry estimates.

While take-up is relatively tepid largely due to budget constraints, with only 30 percent to 40 percent of all commercial and government vehicles fitted with the devices, the fuel, labor and maintenance costs savings can be substantial.

What’s more, from December this year, most trucks will be required by federal law to carry electronic monitoring devices to ensure truckers don’t exceed limits on time spent behind the wheel.

“The most significant development in the transportation sector has been cameras and monitoring of vehicles’ activity,” said Daniel Bancroft, transportation practice leader at Willis Towers Watson.

“Studies we have conducted have proven that they can reduce frequency of accidents by up to 50 percent.”

Osborne of USA Risk Group said that this was borne out by the National Independent Truckers Insurance Co., which consistently achieved a below 50 percent loss ratio for the last 10 years as a result of using cameras in all of its vehicles.

“The adoption of technology allied to greater control over the claims process through the use of captives has enabled companies to determine which claims to settle quickly and which ones to contest,” he said.

Aon’s Kibbe said that training has also played a part.

“Clients have been investing heavily in those aspects as well as dealing with driver fatigue, which has helped massively,” he said.

Willis Towers Watson’s Rider added that middle market trucking firms entering a group captive also had access to more sophisticated loss control safety, engineering and behavioral analysis and services than they would necessarily on their own.

Because a captive’s insureds put more resources into loss control and safety, they have had a bigger impact on reducing frequency, leading to better underwriting results, said Lockton’s Reiser.

“Technology plays a large part in safety and loss control for commercial fleets and is becoming more of a factor in the underwriting process,” he said. &

Alex Wright is a U.K.-based business journalist, who previously was deputy business editor at The Royal Gazette in Bermuda. You can reach him at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Black Swan: EMP

Chaos From Above

An electromagnetic pulse event triggered by the detonation of a low-yield nuclear device in Earth’s atmosphere triggers economic and societal chaos.
By: | July 27, 2017 • 9 min read

Scenario

The vessel that seeks to undo America arrives in the teeth of a storm.

The 4,000-ton Indonesian freighter Pandawas Viper sails towards California in December 2017. It is shepherded toward North America by a fierce Pacific winter storm, a so-called “Pineapple Express,” boasting 15-foot waves and winds topping 70 mph.

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Normally, Pandawas Viper carries cargo containers. This time she harbors a much more potent payload.

Unbeknownst to U.S. defense and intelligence officials, the Viper carries a single nuclear weapon, loaded onto a naval surface-to-air missile, or SAM, concealed below deck.

The warhead has an involved history. It was smuggled out of Kyrgyzstan in 1997, eventually finding its way into the hands of Islamic militants in Indonesia that are loosely affiliated with ISIS.

Even for these ambitious and murderous militants, outfitting a freighter with a nuclear device in secrecy and equipping it to sail to North America in the hopes of firing its deadly payload is quite an undertaking.

Close to $2 million in bribes and other considerations are paid out to ensure that the Pandawas Viper sets sail for America unmolested, her cargo a secret held by less than two dozen extremist Islamic soldiers.

The storm is a perfect cover.

Officials along the West Coast busy themselves tracking the storm, doing what they think is the right thing by warning residents about flooding and landslides, and securing ports against storm-related damage.

No one gives a second thought to the freighter flying Indonesian colors making its way toward the Port of Long Beach, as it apparently should be.

It’s only at two in the morning on Sunday, December 22, that an alert Port of San Diego administrator charged with monitoring ocean-going cargo traffic sees something that causes him to do a double take.

GPS tracking information indicates to him that the Pandawas Viper is not heading to Long Beach, as indicated on its digital shipping logs, but is veering toward Baja, Calif.

Were it to keep its present course, it would arrive at Tijuana, Mexico.

The port administrator dutifully notifies the U.S. Coast Guard.

“Indonesian freighter Pandawas Viper off course, possibly storm-related navigational difficulties,” he emails on a secure digital communication channel operated by the port and the Coast Guard.

“Monitor and alert as necessary,” his message, including the ship’s current coordinates, concludes.

In turn, a communications officer in the Coast Guard’s Alameda, Calif. offices dutifully alerts members of the Coast Guard’s Pacific basin security team. She’s done her job but she’s about an hour late.

At 3:15 am Pacific time on December 22, the deck on the Pandawas Viper opens and the naval surface-to-air missile, operated remotely by a militant operative in Jakarta, is let loose.

It’s headed not for Los Angeles or San Diego, but rather Earth’s atmosphere, where it detonates about 50 miles above the surface.

There it interacts with the planet’s atmosphere, ionosphere and magnetic field to produce an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, which radiates down to Earth, creating additional electric or ground-induced currents.

The operative’s aim is perfect. With a charge of hundreds and in some cases thousands of volts, the GICs cause severe physical damage to all unprotected electronics and transformers. Microchips operate in the range of 1.5 to 5 volts and thus are obliterated by the billions.

As a result, the current created by the blast knocks out 70 percent of the nation’s grid. What began as an overhead flash of light plunges much of the nation into darkness.

The first indication for most people that there is a problem is that their trusty cellphones can do no more than perform calculations, tell them the time or play their favorite tunes.

As minutes turn to hours, however, people realize that they’ve got much bigger concerns on their hands. Critical infrastructure for transportation and communications ceases. Telecommunication breakdowns mean that fire and police services are unreachable.

For the alone, the elderly and the otherwise vulnerable, panic sets in quickly.

Hospital administrators feverishly calculate how long their emergency power supplies can last.

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Supermarkets and other retailers anticipating one of their biggest shopping days of the year on that Monday, December 23, instead wake up to cold homes and chilling prospects.

Grocery stores with their electricity cut off are unable to open and product losses begin to mount. Banks don’t open. Cash machines are inoperable.

In the colder parts of the United States, the race to stay warm is on.  Within a day’s time in some poorer neighborhoods, furniture is broken up and ignited for kindling.

As a result, fires break out, fires that in many cases will not draw a response from firefighting crews due to the communication breakdown.

As days of interruption turn into weeks and months, starvation, rioting and disease take many.

Say good-bye to most of the commercial property/casualty insurance companies that you know. The resulting chaos adds up to more than $1 trillion in economic losses. Property, liability, credit, marine, space and aviation insurers fail in droves.

Assume widespread catastrophic transformer damage, long-term blackouts, lengthy restoration times and chronic shortages. It will take four to 10 years for a full recovery.

The crew which launched the naval surface-to-air missile that resulted in all of this chaos makes a clean getaway. All seven that were aboard the Pandawas Viper make their way to Ensenada, Mexico, about 85 miles south of San Diego via high-speed hovercraft.

Those that bankrolled this deadly trip were Muslim extremists. But this boat crew knows no religion other than gold.

Well-paid by their suppliers, they enjoy several rounds of the finest tequila Ensenada can offer, and a few other diversions, before slipping away to Chile, never to be brought to justice.

Observations

This outcome does not spring from the realm of fiction.

In May, 1999, during the NATO bombing of the former Yugoslavia, high-ranking Russian officials meeting with a U.S. delegation to discuss the Balkans conflict raised the notion of an EMP attack that would paralyze the United States.

That’s according to a report of a commission to assess the threat to the United States from an EMP attack, which was submitted to the U.S. Congress in 2004. But Russia is not alone in this threat or in this capability.

Wes Dupont, vice president and general counsel, Allied World Assurance Company

North Korea also has the capability and the desire, according to experts, and there is speculation that recent rocket launches by that country are dress rehearsals to detonate a nuclear device in our atmosphere and carry out an EMP attack on the United States.

The first defense against such an attack is our missile defense. But some experts believe this country is ill-equipped to defend against this sort of scenario.

“In terms of risk mitigation, if an event like this happens, then that means the best risk mitigation we have has already failed, which would be our military defense systems, because the terrorists have already launched their weapon, and it’s already exploded,” said Wes Dupont, a vice president and general counsel with the Allied World Assurance Company.

The U.S power grid is relatively unprotected against EMP blasts, Dupont said.

And a nuclear blast is the worst that can occur. There isn’t much mitigation that’s been done because many methods are unproven, and it’s expensive, he added.

Lloyd’s and others have studied coronal mass ejections, solar superstorms that would produce a magnetic field that could enter our atmosphere and wipe out our grid.  Scientists believe that an EMP attack would carry a force far greater than any coronal mass ejection that has ever been measured.

An extended blackout, with some facilities taking years to return to full functionality, is a scenario that no society on earth is ready for.

“Traditional scenarios only assume blackouts for a few days and losses seem to be moderate …” wrote executives with Allianz in a 2011 paper outlining risk management options for power blackout risks.

“If an event like this happens, then that means the best risk mitigation we have has already failed … because the terrorists have already launched their weapon, and it’s already exploded.” — Wes Dupont, vice president and general counsel, Allied World Assurance Company

“But if we are considering longer-lasting blackouts, which are most likely from space weather or coordinated cyber or terrorist attacks, the impacts to our society and economy might be significant,” the Allianz executives wrote.

“Critical infrastructure such as communication and transport would be hampered,” the Allianz executives wrote.

“The heating and water supply would stop, and production processes and trading would cease. Emergency services like fire, police or ambulance could not be called due to the breakdown of the telecommunications systems. Hospitals would only be able to work as long as the emergency power supply is supplied with fuel. Financial trading, cash machines and supermarkets in turn would have to close down, which would ultimately cause a catastrophic scenario,” according to Allianz.

It would cost tens of billions to harden utility towers in this country so that they wouldn’t be rendered inoperable by ground-induced currents. That may seem like a lot of money, but it’s really not when we think about the trillion dollars or more in damages that could result from an EMP attack, not to mention the loss of life.

Allianz estimates that when a blackout is underway, financial trading institutions, for example, suffer losses of more than $6 million an hour; telecommunications companies lose about $30,000 per minute, according to the Allianz analysis.

Insurers, of course, would be buffeted should a rogue actor pull off this attack.

Lou Gritzo, vice president and manager of research, FM Global

“Depending on the industries and the locations that are affected, it could really change the marketplace, insurers and reinsurers as well,” said Lou Gritzo, a vice president and manager of research at FM Global.

Gritzo said key practices to defend against this type of event are analyzing supply chains to establish geographically diverse supplier options and having back-up systems for vital operations.

The EMP commission of 2004 argued that the U.S. needs to be vigilant and punish with extreme prejudice rogue entities that are endeavoring to obtain the kind of weapon that could be used in an attack like this.

It also argued that we need to protect our critical infrastructure, carry out research to better understand the effects of such an attack, and create a systematic recovery plan. Understanding the condition of critical infrastructure in the wake of an attack and being able to communicate it will be key, the commission argued.

The commission pointed to a blackout in the Midwest in 2003, in which key system operators did not have an alarm system and had little information on the changing condition of their assets as the blackout unfolded.

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The commission’s point is that we have the resources to defend against this scenario. But we must focus on the gravity of the threat and employ those resources.

Our interconnected society and the steady increase in technology investment only magnify this risk on a weekly basis.

“Our vulnerability is increasing daily as our use of and dependence on electronics continues to grow,” the EMP commission members wrote back in 2004.

But “correction is feasible and well within the nation’s means and resources to accomplish,” the commission study authors wrote. &

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]