You Can Lead a Horse to Water, But You Can’t Make It Drink

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I have been blessed to have a 43-year career as a logger and timber dealer in the forest products industry. I have had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know a vast number of people who are a part of this industry, and most of them will tell you that I am very passionate about what we do. It deeply bothers me to see some of the issues that we are having to face these days that have hurt or shuttered many businesses in recent years, and I fear for many of us still hanging in there.

While some obstacles cannot be controlled, I am confident there is one area we can all work on. Forest products transportation has become a very costly part of our industry, with fuel, insurance costs, and labor increasing at a steady pace and only a handful of insurance carriers that will cover log trucks. This is due in part to the fact that people have been encouraged to be ‘sue happy’ by constant commercials and billboards in their view every day. The cost of insuring even one truck has become unreasonable and unaffordable for most, and we don’t have the option to pass on the additional expense.

Now more than ever, truck safety should be a priority for every log truck owner and driver. With fewer claims and lawsuits, logically, we should be able to bring our insurance costs down. My business is currently insured by a very exclusive captive insurance company that offers regular training and monitors driver behavior (speeding, hard brakes, dangerous habits) weekly. Since joining them, I have seen how training has helped stabilize my rates as well as those of the other members. Our drivers have become more aware of situations around them and the dangers even one small mistake can cause. When we do the same thing every day, we can become lax, so training reminds us of a lotĀ of the little things we can do to prevent accidents and costly lawsuits, especially in the states considered the “wood basket” of the timber industry where litigation is generally not in our favor.

If I told you there was a way to stabilize insurance rates, wouldn’t you be all in? In 2015, a group of forward-thinking industry professionals got together and formed TEAM Safe Trucking (TST). The acronym TEAM (Together Everyone Accomplishes More) was formed years ago when a group of insurance and business leaders were addressing problems with machinery fires. They also started looking at commercial auto liability and observed that we had a problem on the horizon that needed to be addressed. In 2021, I became president of this non-profit group of dedicated and concerned volunteers who have worked diligently to develop a safety training program for the forest products transportation industry. We offer hundreds of training modules that were designed specifically for forest products haulers, which are easy to access and use. Is there a cost associated with the program? The answer is yes, but I can promise it is minuscule compared to the cost of a lawsuit, and it is ultimately an investment in your business and your employees.

As we approach the half-way point of 2024 with only a small number of insurance carriers writing commercial truck liability insurance, one can’t help but wonder how many more forest products transportation and logging companies will go by the wayside because it is unprofitable? How high will insurance rates get if we stay on the path we are on? TST offers an opportunity for us to all work together and train our drivers to be safer. We need to all be on the same team to fight the insurance rate battle. Ask your insurance agent what they do for loss control and how they can help you if you utilize what they offer. Ask if they support TST and how they can help you utilize it to start to stabilize your rates. If they don’t support it now, ask them to look into it. TST is here to help in any way we can with training, but we need you and your agents to start using the programs we provide. We encourage all truck owners and drivers to contact us and see what we have to offer. I would also ask anyone who would like to be a part of this great group to please contact us. We can always use more volunteers, especially forest products transportation and logging individuals! We need your knowledge to help us grow.

A good friend and director of the American Loggers Council, Scott Dane, said something at a meeting not that long ago that really hits home – “As loggers our independence is one of our greatest assets, but also works to be our worst demise”. TST provides a platform to work together to address the issues driving up insurance costs. Logging businesses, log haulers and the forest industry must collectively work together to improve safety in hauling forest products leading to lower truck insurance rates.

TEAM Safe Trucking is a reservoir full of water. Consider this your invitation to “drink” in the benefits of our program!