School Bus operators have unique needs and requirements, including limits to your industry. We have programs available for schools, travel, party buses, and school bus operations contracted primarily to local public and private school districts.
All of our carriers are A rated or better, albeit for school bus contractors, we have insurance with A++ (Superior) as rated by A.M Best. The "big" number, that of liability for bodily and property injury and damages starts at $1 million in coverage, and can have higher levels depending on your school bus business requirements. For example, a $5 million total amount of coverage is secured with a primary level of $1 million, followed by another $4 million using an umbrella.
Another benefit is the ability to add personal injury protection (PIP) where required by law. PIP is commonly revered to as "no fault auto insurance." The idea behind no-fault is to lower the cost of litigation for motorists, however, for almost everyone, it raises the cost of insurance, and while I don't know this as a fact, from what I can tell, the cost of insurance premiums being higher outweighs the cost of litigation costs overall. I guess if you get in lots of accidents, you may be on the plus side with PIP, albeit I think the winners of PIP pale in comparison to all those with higher auto insurance rates. Regardless, if you operate a school bus company and you're required to have PIP, we have you covered.
School Bus physical damage, that's the type of coverage your personal car insurance policy calls comprehensive and collision. Various deductibles are available to suit your risk tolerance and loss history. For school bus operators with little or no claims in the last three or four years, physical damage rates are very attractive. While most of your school buses are likely owned (including leased as a means of financing), which is called "owned" vehicles, "non-owned" and "hired auto" is also available. "non-owned" vehicles are those that are rented (for example, to cover for another school bus in the shop for repairs), as well as school buses that are contracted (a coach bus leased for one or a few events can be added). "hired auto" is what you normally do as a school business, you're providing transportation for another on a contract basis, albeit another may be hired, or "for hire."
Towing and lease gap coverage is available.
Payment plans are available if the school bus insurance premium is over $2000 a year. Since just about every school bus operator that's contracted has over $2000 in premium, all or almost all contractors will have a payment plan option available, thereby not having to pay for the entire year ahead of time.
Our forms to secure coverage are relatively simple. Plus, it's our objective to fill out forms as much as we can for clients. I don't enjoy going to an office and get handed a bunch of forms to fill out. Especially when some of the forms as for identical information (that's not my job to fill out my name over and over again), and so we don't do that to our clients. For me, it's a respect thing, and I'm not about to disrespect my clients or businesses looking to buy insurance from us.
Some insurance policy application questions are pretty basic with the usual questions, including name, address, garaging locations for the school buses, radius of operation, driver information etc..
Other questions you may not expect is a breakdown of your school bus fleet, including and increase or decrease in the size of your bus operation. If you're a member of the National School Transportation Association or not, the makeup of your operation (rural, suburban, and/or urban).
The school contracts that you have now and anticipate gaining, along with the proportion of revenue derived from any given school district contract.
The proportion of revenue from charter bus services, sightseeing / tour bus services, Taxi services, shuttle services, limousine (also called livery) services, medical transportation, sporting events, and last but not least, concerts.
For school buses, after-school activities matter, including field trips, athletic events, and summer camps.
One area to pay close attention to is if your school bus business loans/leases, or rents buses without drivers to others. That can open a whole new can of worms, and it's important to make sure you have an agent who understands the risks and liability involved. We'll ask if you always receive copies of their commercial auto insurance policy and if you're named as an additional insured, if there's hold harmless and indemnification agreements in your school bus contracts. These details can become hugely important in the case of an accident.
When it comes to running a school bus contractor business, your drivers can make or break your operation, and if you've been in business for a while, you know exactly what I mean. The drivers are one of the biggest influencers of your premium, and even though it's a challenge to find good reliable drivers, paying higher wages to secure a rock-solid employment force will likely cost less because of your auto insurance rates.
Having a formal written safety program is almost a requirement if your school bus company is of any real size. The key here is to actually have the written safety program work for you and use it as if your life depends on it. After all, lots of kids unknowingly depend on your written and unwritten bus safety program to ensure they safe travels to and from school and back to home again each day.
Do you have any driver post hiring driver training? If yes, that's great and you'll get asked to describe.
What is your accident review process (maybe committee) and disciplinary procedure for drivers with moving violations?
This one should be an obvious one in today's day and age, albeit one question for sure is if you provide a drug and alcohol free workplace? Many school bus business managers are surprised by this question because they're thinking of the drivers, albeit it's applicable for all the staff, including and especially maintenance.
If family members are using the vehicles for personal use, the commercial auto insurance carrier will want to know.
There's a few more questions beyond the ones discussed above, and the take-away is that for most school bus companies, more questions means lower premiums. When an insurance carrier can quantify with greater accuracy what your risk profile is, and do so with increased confidence of the accuracy, the insurance carrier can charge less because a lower "fudge factor safety cushion" is required to remain profitable.
Robert Weinstein is a husband, dad, stock market junkie, real estate broker, and of course…Insurance agent. Interests include my family, economics, marketing, technology, real estate, finance/investing, history, and Asia.
Robert’s insurance expertise includes having the designation of Certified in Long-Term Care (CLTC) and assist in asset protection for families with members entering retirement.
Robert is also an accomplished syndicated writer whose work can be found in TheStreet, MainStreet, CNBC, Forbes, Yahoo Finance, Seeking Alpha, MSN Money, The Money Show, Stock Saints, Motley Fool, Fidelity, Minyanville, RealMoney Pro, and many national and international newspapers.