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Insurance Update
Is your agent really an agent?

I recently read an article by the Missouri Department of Insurance published in an insurance trade magazine that caused me some concern. Because I believe the information could be important to professional truckers in every state, I'd like to share it with you.

During the past decade, the marketplace has experienced fierce competition for customers' business. Due to the fact that today's smart buyers are no longer just considering the costs of various goods and services, the buzzword of the '90s is "service."

Because of the intense competition, salespeople are pushing and shoving their way to the top of the ladder by inventing new methods to outdo the other guy/gal when it comes to providing the customer with that little extra incentive to buy from them. However, in their enthusiasm, they sometimes cross over their legal boundaries.

The article I read refers to an increase in complaints to the Missouri Department of Insurance made against "agents" who really aren't agents at all! It turns out that most of these complaints were made by consumers who purchased insurance through the dealership where they bought their new vehicle.

The article goes on to explain that in their efforts to go the extra mile for their customers (and to make a few extra bucks for themselves), sales people are "helping" their customers complete applications for auto insurance. Due to the lack of proper training and licensing, mistakes are being made that end up being costly for the buyer–hence the increase in complaints.

I've sold insurance to professional truckers for ten years now, and during that time I've tried to learn as much as I can about the trucking industry. Although I think I've got a pretty good handle on their insurance needs, I don't believe for one second that qualifies me to jump in an 18-wheeler and head off down the interstate. I'm no genius, but I'm smart enough to know that lots of training and a CDL should fit in here somewhere! The same scenario applies to a dealership's sales personnel–having the ability to make a sale on a truck or car does not make them qualified to insure it! There's a little more to it than that.

To earn a property/casualty agent's license, an individual must attend insurance classes and pass an exam. In Missouri, licensed agents are required to keep up-to-date on current laws and issues that affect the insurance industry by attending additional classes every two years. Other states have similar or even stricter requirements for agents.

Once an agent has been appointed to represent an insurance provider, they must become familiar with and adhere to the company's underwriting guidelines. This is no small task due to the fact that these guidelines are constantly growing and changing!

The truth is that it's simply illegal for an unlicensed person to sell insurance, whether it's at a bank or other lending institution or at a dealership. Unlicensed personnel can refer buyers to a particular agent or agency, but they can't force you to purchase insurance from them. They can't give you insurance quotes or handle applications for insurance. They certainly can't accept insurance premiums from you and they can't sweeten the deal by offering to pay your premiums. Unlicensed personnel and the dealerships who participate in these illegal practices are subject to penalties that may include hefty fines.

Buyers can and should take precautions to protect themselves against sales people who attempt to take on the role of a licensed property/casualty insurance agent illegally.

How You Can Avoid Becoming A Victim

Make sure the salesperson has a license to sell insurance, and ask to see it before you commit to purchasing coverage from them.

Properly licensed agents will be happy to show off their credentials. Many states provide agents with a certificate that is suitable for framing, while other agents have wallet-sized licenses.

Don't buy insurance through the dealership.

It's OK for the dealership to recommend an agent or agency, but you should deal with the agent directly. Remember that you don't have to buy from the agent your dealer recommends as a condition of the sale. Talk to your friends and ask them if they'd recommend their agent. (Ninety-nine percent of those insured through OOIDA say they would recommend us to their fellow professional truckers.)

Plan ahead.

The purchase of a new vehicle is a pretty big deal for most people. Isn't it worth a little extra planning in order to make sure that your investment is properly insured? Most dealerships are only concerned with protecting their own financial interest in the vehicle. You need to take the time to talk to a properly licensed and knowledgeable agent in order to discuss the options that are available to you. You'll avoid costly mistakes if you do, so it'll be worth it in the long run.

If you're being pressured by sales personnel to buy insurance through them because they won't let you take your new vehicle off the lot without verification, don't sweat it!

OOIDA's agents can get you covered and fax over a certificate of insurance in less time than you'd think possible!

Arm yourself with knowledge.

If you know the limits of the law, you won't be taken in by someone who operates outside of their legal boundaries. Remember–individuals who provide and assist with insurance applications, quotes, or other paperwork relating to the sale of insurance must be properly licensed. If you find you've been involved with someone who is not, report him or her to the insurance commissioner in your particular state.

Finally, check with OOIDA first.

Give us a call and we'll be happy to provide you with everything you need to properly insure your new truck or trailer. We have licensed agents in both the truck insurance sales department and the customer service department ready to meet your insurance needs. We'll talk one-on-one with you and give you the confidence you need to drive away from the dealership knowing you've made the best deal possible... especially where your insurance is concerned!