HAZMAsTery: Cover Your Spills

The ONLY coverage for spills or clean-up under any standard commercial Auto or Truckers Policy is for pollutants that escape from your vehicle’s engine or fuel tank, such as gas or oil.  Coverage will not apply to any cargo you are carrying.

Some underwriters will add an endorsement that will extend coverage for pollutants you may be carrying.  We have seen this endorsement available for trucking companies, but the few insurance carriers providing auto coverage for couriers are not willing to provide it.

There are several carriers that will include a minimal amount of clean-up coverage under a Cargo policy.  Usually, the limit is no more than $10,000.

At one time or another, most couriers are carrying cargo that is considered hazardous.  Frankly, just about anything will qualify; paint, soap, hair spray, etc.  Most of the time, only small quantities are being carried, they are not considered bulk and hazardous placards are not necessary.  The vast majority of the time, the exposure is pretty minimal.  However, you should keep in mind, even if what you are carrying is minimal, you could get stuck with a clean-up bill of some significance.  You may not even be carrying anything you can spill and end up with a problem.

We’re aware of a courier who was transporting several brand new, empty 55 gallon HAZMAT drums in the back of an open pick-up truck.  The driver had to swerve to avoid an oncoming vehicle, causing the unsecured drums to fall onto the highway.  State Highway Patrol came onto the scene of the accident and immediately called in a hazmat team for clean-up.  Even though there wasn’t anything to actually clean-up, the courier got hit with a $10,000 bill, for which there was no coverage.

Certainly, this was a freak occurrence.  I’m not advocating that you run out and purchase an expensive Auto Pollution Liability policy, just be cognizant of what you are carrying.  Even if you are carrying small quantities, especially liquids that fall under hazardous commodities, make sure your drivers are a bit more cautious.  If you are able to get your auto underwriter to add the Auto Pollution endorsement, by all means, have them do it.  Cost would be minimal; it’s the availability that’s always been the problem.  Alternatively, if you’re able to secure your cargo coverage with a carrier that includes some limited clean-up coverage, take it.  Even if it’s only a $10,000 limit, it’s better than nothing.

If you feel it’s appropriate to act on some real HAZMAT opportunities, you MUST obtain a separate, Auto Pollution Liability policy. To find out what commodities are HAZARDOUS and what quantities constitute BULK, go to the Office of Hazardous Material Safety website at hazmat.dot.gov and review the Code of Federal Regulations, specifically CFR49 – section 172.504.

Oswald Logistics Insurance has relationships with several carriers who offer Auto Pollution Liability policies with low minimum premiums. Call us today for more information! 877-862-4755

Written: 7/9/09

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