Your DOT Number matters

Truck businesses with clean loss records might wonder why their insurance costs so much. Maybe there aren’t any speeding tickets accidents on your record, but you’re still seeing rates that are higher than what they could be. Your DOT Number might be the reason why. Your business’s DOT Number keeps track of violations you have received, which can hurt your insurance situation. Your DOT Number has a big effect on your insurance rates.

Why is your DOT Number so important?

Your question might be why your DOT Number is so important and why it has such a big impact on your truck insurance. The Dept. of Transportation is focused on making sure that trucks are safe. They want to reduce the chance of a truck causing an accident. The violations that they might notice are things that increase the risk of an accident – for example, an improperly secured load.

The DOT is basically law enforcement for trucks. Sure, they might not have a cruiser with a police department painted on the side, but they can still write tickets – and they can take your CDL. And while they might not take you to jail, they will make you sit on the side of the road until whatever Out of Service violation they’ve found has been corrected.

How does your DOT affect your insurance rates?

The insurance company is also concerned with your risk of causing an accident. They look at DOT violations and see safety issues that could lead to an accident. To them, the higher the chance of an accident, the higher the chance that they’ll have to pay out a claim. Insurance companies don’t like risk – in fact, removing risk is what insurance is all about. They’re not going to want to insure a business with DOT violations – and an insurance company that is willing to insure a business with violations is going to charge some pretty high rates.

Here’s why:

If you’re thinking about a violation concerning an improperly secured load, the insurance company is seeing that load coming right off the truck in the middle of the road, causing a wreck. If you get a violation for a headlight that’s gone out, they’re seeing a truck rushing down the highway in the middle of the night without proper visibility. If you get an Hours of Service violation, they’re seeing a fatigued truck driver who falls asleep at the wheel. If there’s a violation with the way a piece of machinery is tied down, they’re seeing that piece of machinery flying off the truck and into a car. Even violations for things that don’t seem to be a big deal (like that headlight) can really count against you when it comes to getting truck insurance for your business.

To put it another way: the DOT is law enforcement for trucks. If the insurance company sees a DOT violation, they know that you’ve broken the law. So, if you have DOT violations, you might be in trouble when it comes time for your insurance renewal.

(And for anyone who does hotshot out there with a heavy-duty pickup truck and a trailer: be extremely careful with the weight of your rig. If you don’t have a CDL and you’re over 26,000 pounds, you’re driving a vehicle that requires a CDL…without a CDL. And that does not look good.)

Tips to keep a good DOT record.

If you’ve got some DOT violations, you’ve got to take steps to be by the books in the future. That way you can wait it out, and when your record clears up you could see some better insurance rates.

So, what can you do to put yourself into a better DOT situation (and a better insurance situation)?

First, you’ve got to be serious about pre-trip inspections. You have to check your brakes, tires, your lights, your truck’s weight, and so on. Don’t rush through this process – you have to take it seriously. Play by the rules and be thorough when you inspect your rig. You need to inspect your truck before every trip.

You can also keep an emergency kit full of things like spare lightbulbs, fuses, and whatever else you might need to have handy. Let’s say you’re driving along and one of your lights has gone out while you’re behind the wheel. You get pulled over, but you’re able to calmly explain to the officer that you have a spare lightbulb and can take care of it immediately. You can make the fix and be on your way – without having to sit on the side of the road to wait for a replacement lightbulb. You don’t have to let something like that keep you off the road for hours.

And if you have owner-operators who drive for you, it’s also important to know what’s going on with them. You need to know where they are and when they interact with the DOT. (That’s where our agency can help. We can be notified when one of your drivers gets a violation with the DOT, and that way we can let you know what happened. If you’re aware of the problem and can address it quickly, it can only help the situation.)

Anyways, that’s why your DOT Number has such a huge effect on your insurance rates. It indicates how much of a risk you present to an insurance company and likely you are to have a claim in the future. It’s important to do your pre-trip vehicle inspections and follow safety regulations. If you do, you can put yourself in a better insurance situation.