Owner operators and small trucking companies are vulnerable to major setbacks when their equipment is damaged in accidents. While insurance companies are expected to provide rental cars to claimants, they rarely do so for commercial business claimants who need tractor trailers and other heavy equipment. As a result, truckers must rely on their own resources to find temporary rentals, which can be challenging and expensive.
Renting – It’s a Struggle
There are various reasons why an owner operator may struggle to rent equipment. Motor carrier contracts can forbid the use of temporarily rented equipment or make the process so cumbersome that it becomes impractical. Shipper and receiver requirements may demand specifically designated equipment that is not available for rent. Many types of specialized equipment are rarely offered by rental companies.
Even if a suitable rental can be found, the expense can be prohibitive. Rental companies often require a substantial security deposit, charge high fees per day plus mileage and insurance, and may require credit approval based on stringent criteria. For small businesses that are already struggling due to equipment downtime and loss of income, these costs can be devastating.
Renting Specialized Equipment
Moreover, rental equipment may not fully meet the needs of owner operators who rely on their equipment for their livelihood. Standard box trucks, tractors, and trailers may not have the specialized features that are necessary for hauling certain types of cargo or driving long distances. The lack of sleepers, APUs, communication software, and other devices can make it difficult for owner operators to maintain their schedules and fulfill their contracts.
Regulations and Requirements
To compound the problem, owner operators are subject to highly regulated business and equipment requirements that must be met prior to operation on our nation’s roads and highways. Contracts may be lost, and hefty fines assessed for companies that don’t abide by the rules. In addition, the loss of income due to equipment downtime can be significant, and adverse parties and insurance companies must not lose sight of the fact that these losses may not be able to be mitigated by rental equipment.
To address these hurdles, it is important for insurance companies and responsible parties to recognize the unique challenges that owner operators and small trucking companies face when their equipment is damaged. Fair compensation that takes into account the actual costs and losses incurred by these businesses is essential to help them recover and resume their operations. This can include not only the direct costs of repairs or replacement, but also the indirect costs of lost income, lost contracts, and lost opportunities.
Ultimately, a more equitable and supportive system is needed to ensure that owner operators and small trucking companies can continue to provide essential services to our economy while receiving fair treatment and compensation when they are affected by accidents or other unforeseen events.
To the outside observer, it might seem reasonable for a trucker to hop out of damaged equipment and into a rental. However, it’s just not that easy. Owner operators run small businesses that just happen to be on wheels. As with any stationary business, if damaged, there is significant loss of business income.
Adverse parties and insurance companies must be aware that many truckers’ losses cannot be mitigated with rental equipment. In most states, if equipment is not available to rent, the adverse party is responsible for the trucker’s downtime. Truckers should protect their businesses, their families and their claims by standing firm and demanding all the losses due them.