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Commercial Truck Insurance Requirements: A Comprehensive Guide

Unfortunately, accidents happen sometimes. Whether you are driving a small car or a big commercial truck, you are at risk any time you’re on the road. Insurance is your protection against the ramifications of an accident, whether it’s your fault or not. 

What is commercial truck insurance?

As a commercial trucker, you need specialized insurance to cover you when you’re on the road in your truck. Commercial truck insurance is different from your standard automotive policy. Commercial truck insurance is tailored specifically to the risks of trucking. 

Primary trucking liability versus trucking general liability

Whether you have one truck or ten trucks on the road, you need commercial truck insurance. This insurance protects your trucks, your business, and you. Commercial trucking policies start with primary liability insurance, but it doesn’t stop there. 

Now, if you’re an owner-operator, you’ll need to extend your liability insurance to include trucking general liability insurance. Insurance for yourself is primary liability, and insurance for your company is general liability. 

Primary liability only covers injuries to a person or damage to someone else’s vehicle in the event of an accident. This protects the public. General liability offers additional protections for your business against slander or libel, or false advertising claims. Learn more at the best trucking general liability insurance companies.

Primary liability insurance requirements for commercial trucks

  • $750,000—Most trucks are required to carry a minimum of $750,000 worth of primary liability insurance coverage
  • $1,000,000—The minimum is $750,000, but brokers and shipping facilities will often require that you carry $1,000,000 before they will work with you.
  • $5,000,000—Hazardous material is a different ballgame. You’ll need a minimum of $5,000,000 for that.

Other coverages you need

In order to get your operating authority permissions, all you absolutely have to have is the primary liability insurance that meets the minimum requirements. However, there are a few other coverages you’ll need to be fully covered for any eventuality. 

Cargo insurance

Cargo insurance covers your cargo—the goods you’re hauling. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) doesn’t require cargo insurance, but it’s good to have it anyway. For-hire interstate owner-operators need this insurance whether the FMCSA requires it or not. 

Most businesses will not do business with an owner/ operator who doesn’t have cargo insurance. Typically, the limits for cargo insurance are $100,000, but your cargo dictates that. 

Learn more at the best cargo insurance companies.

Bobtail insurance

Your agreement should spell out exactly what coverages you need. If you’re an owner/operator and have primary liability insurance, then bobtail insurance isn’t a requirement. However, if you’ve leased with a motor carrier and you run under their authority rather than your own, bobtail insurance might be a requirement of your lease. 

Learn more at the best bobtail insurance companies.

Physical damage insurance

This insurance protects your tractor or trailer from accidents. This insurance is required if you are purchasing your truck with financing. If you own your truck without payments, you aren’t required to have this insurance necessarily. It’s still wise to invest in the coverage because one accident could ruin you financially. 

Learn more at the best trucking physical damage insurance companies.

Reefer breakdown coverage

If you drive a refrigerated truck, you’ll need to investigate coverage for the refrigerated part of the truck. This endorsement to an insurance policy would cover cargo loss, refrigeration equipment breakdown, or damage to a product because of a collision. 

What’s covered by commercial truck insurance

A general liability policy will cover the following things: 

Bodily injury

If someone else is hurt by your truck, bodily injury pays for medical bills as well as any potential lawsuit charges. Bodily injury also covers if someone slips and falls on your property

Damaged property or goods

If your truck causes damage to someone else’s property, this insurance will pay to fix or replace the property. General liability covers if you should deliver something to the wrong address.

Driver accidents at delivery locations

General liability insurance will cover the damages if your driver causes damage to property somewhere other than your property.

Libel, slander, and false advertising claims

If you conduct any kind of advertising or have a representation of your brand out on the road, general liability coverage will help with any libel, slander, or even false advertising lawsuits

This is a synopsis of what is covered by commercial truck insurance. There are some things that aren’t covered, however. 

What isn’t covered by commercial truck insurance

Look for endorsements that cover the following scenarios:

Vehicles that aren’t trucks: Commercial truck insurance is just for trucks, and only certain types of trucks at that. It doesn’t cover such vehicles as hearses, limos, buses, passenger vans, cement trucks, or ice cream trucks.

Driver injuries: Basic insurance policies focus on protecting other policies. Your drivers would be covered under a worker’s compensation insurance plan.

Damage to your trucks: General liability covers damage to others but not to your trucks. Those coverages are available with physical damage policies. These coverages are required by law, but it’s a wise investment.

Lost products due to broken refrigeration: If you drive a refrigerated truck, you will need specific coverage for the replacement of refrigerated cargo if the truck or the refrigeration unit breaks down.

Loss of cargo: You are required to carry a minimum of $5,000 in cargo coverage, but it’s wise to have more coverage than that because the load you carry is often worth more than that. 

Loss of income after an accident: If your truck is involved in an accident, and it takes a while to get the business on the road again, you won’t be covered for loss of income. You’ll need business income insurance or another form of gap insurance called business interruption insurance.


Commercial truck insurance is an absolute necessity if you are going to transport cargo. You want to have the right coverages to protect you as well. The FMCSA requires that you carry certain kinds of liability insurance. However, it’s wise to have coverages that go beyond the basic coverages you are required to have. The liability coverage you are required to have only covers the other person should you have an accident.

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