You rely on your vehicle to operate your business. If you are a one man contractor or tradesman you may be able to put a pickup truck or van you use on a personal auto policy as artisan use without issue. However, there are certain circumstances where you will want to insure your vehicle on a dedicated commercial automobile policy.
Personal Vs. Commercial
There is a list of factors that can help determine if you should put a vehicle on a commercial auto versus a personal auto.
GVW - most personal automobile policies cap out at 10,000 lbs gross vehicle weight. If your vehicle is over that weight, most carriers will require you insure the truck on a commercial auto policy.
Truck Type & Use - certain truck VINs are flagged or unaccepted on a personal auto policy. Box trucks, dump trucks, trucks with utility bodies, trucks used for hauling, etc. should be insured on commercial automobile policies.
Towing - What you are towing can be extremely important. If you are using a personal automobile to tow a commercial trailer this can become a problem. Since liability extends off of a automobile policy when towing a trailer, it can be problematic at the time of a claim. If a commercial trailer goes flying off the back of your personal vehicle and damages property or injures somebody, your personal automobile policy might not provide coverage.
Advertisement - If your vehicle has advertisement for your business plastered on the side of it, the vehicle should be insured on a commercial auto policy.
Who drives it? - allowing your employee to take a vehicle that is insured on your personal automobile is a no no. If your employees are regularly operating a vehicle that is insured on that personal auto policy and they get into an accident, the claim can be denied and the vehicle owner can be left personally liable. Having your own vehicle listed as business or artisan use on a personal auto policy has specific usage rules.
Who Owns it? - Is your vehicle titled to you personally or the business? In very rare cases, some companies will offer a corporate owned auto endorsement for a vehicle insured on a personal auto. Most will not.
The coverages you will find on a commercial auto policy will be similar in many ways to a personal automobile policy. However, there are some differences in regards to additional coverages that pertain to business usage.
Liability - For bodily injury and property damage you cause to others
Uninsured & Under-insured Motorist - coverage if another driver causes physical injury or damage to your vehicle and does not have adequate insurance to pay for the damages
Physical Damage - Comprehensive & collision coverage on your own vehicle
Medical Payments - covers immediate injuries to the driver and any passengers in the insured vehicle
Hired & Non-Owned Auto - if your employees regularly drive their own personal vehicle or rented vehicle while on the job, you should add this coverage to your policy to extend the policy's liability limit to that vehicle. If they end up in an accident and exceed the limit on their own policy, you might be found liable if they see that employee was working on the clock.
Any Auto - a combination of the two coverages listed above, this will provide coverage for vehicles owned, hired, non-owned, or rented.
As a trucker, you may be operating as an owner operator, a for-hire / motor carrier, or a private carrier.
In many cases you will want to have these endorsements listed on your policy:
Non-Trucking Liability - More comprehensive than bobtail coverage, NTL will cover you whether you are hauling a trailer or not during non business & personal use.
Motor Truck Cargo - Covers the cargo carried including additional costs like freight charges.
Motor Trucking GL - liability while performing under a contract. This can cover items like incorrect shipping of products, property damage, libel & slander, and other non driving related incidents.
Rental & Downtime - If your truck is damaged you can be reimbursed with another vehicle or be paid for the difference it would cost to rent a similar truck.
Rating insurance on a commercial vehicle looks at certain characteristics:
Driving history for all scheduled drivers
Vehicles with a USDOT #; authority audits / compliance / inspection records