Vehicle Title and Liability

Vehicle Title and Liability

Written by Eric Petersen, CIC

Do you know how your vehicles are titled? I know that sounds like a silly question, but you wouldn’t believe the number of times we hear tree care owners being unsure about how each vehicle is titled and any mistakes could cause a major issue with your insurance coverage. 

Simply put, the owner of the vehicle assumes the liability of that vehicle. If the Named Insured on the insurance policy doesn’t match the owner that is listed on the vehicle’s title, coverage for a claim could easily be denied by the insurance company. 

If your company is well established as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or Corporation, you probably have over time transitioned the titles of each vehicle into the business’s name, however, it only takes one vehicle to be incorrect to have an issue. Many times it is the vehicle that the owner drives. Whether they initially bought a truck in their personal name or they knew it was going to be the truck that they and their family will be driving, owner’s tend to not be as careful getting these trucks into their company’s name as they should be. 

Remember, you started the legal entity (LLC or Corporation) for a reason, to separate your business’s liability from your personal assets. You need to put all vehicles used for business into the business’s name to properly separate that liability. Besides, no business owner wants to have his or her personal assets on the line if an employee loses control of the vehicle and injures someone in a car accident. 

If you just started your business, or bought a vehicle right when you opened up your company, chances are you were not be able to buy it in the new LLC’s name because the new business did not have any credit built up. If that is the case, you can still insure the vehicle on your Business Auto policy, but you need to make sure that your personal name is listed as an Additional Insured and Loss Payee for that vehicle. 

The same thing goes for leased or long-term rented/borrowed vehicles. If you do not own the vehicle, but have an agreement to use it for an extended period of time, make sure your insurance agent knows so you can get the proper Additional Insured and Loss Payee language on the policy and ensure there will not be a problem if that vehicle is involved in an accident. 

To verify the name on the vehicle’s title, take a look at each vehicle’s registration paperwork. The name on the registration will be the same that is on the title as both the registration and title are legal documents. If you find a truck that is not in your business’s name, immediately work on getting that switched or talk to your insurance agent to add the proper insurance language.

If you want to have some guidance on the points mentioned above, reach out to an ArboRisk team member today or be sure to check out our Thrive program at: https://arboriskinsurance.com/arborisks-thrive/

4 Ways to Lower Business Auto Insurance Cost

4 Ways to Lower Business Auto Insurance Cost

Written by Eric Petersen, CIC

Ooof! Is your Business Auto Insurance cost skyrocketing? We consistently hear that the largest insurance issue for tree care companies right now is the cost of their business auto insurance. 

And to make matters worse, the cost is not the only thing that is frustrating in today’s Business Auto insurance environment. Tree care companies are also having trouble adding vehicles due to the value or size as well as dealing with tighter driving record requirements from the insurance companies.

So how do you gain some control of your Business Auto insurance? 

To start, remember that the insurance industry needs to make a profit to be able to pay for the claims that they’ve promised to pay on the policies that they’ve sold. To do this, they analyze (underwrite) their policyholders and determine the price they feel is necessary to achieve this goal. If you, as the policyholder, can show the insurance company why you will be a profitable account for them (having less claims than expected), you will receive a lower premium. 

There are many things you can do to lower your Business Auto cost, but below are what I feel are the four most impactful ways. 


1) Driver Management – Your largest exposure to your fleet are your drivers. Having solid driver management procedures is the only way to begin to lessen this exposure. There are three important aspects of driver management:

a. Hiring Process – The best way to avoid hiring a bad driver is to have a process in place to identify what is required of your employees. Ensuring that your written job descriptions state the driving requirement of the position is the first step. Then run background and Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) checks to verify the information that the applicant gave you on the application is correct. Lastly, establish a set of MVR guidelines that a person must meet before they can be hired for a position with driving responsibilities.

b. Driving Test – After someone qualifies to drive your vehicles on paper, make sure they can drive in real life. Create a driving test for each type of vehicle within your fleet and make all drivers prove their driving ability before allowing them to go out onto the road for you. Remember to include the following items in your driving test: pre-trip inspection, starting, stopping, turning both directions, backing up and parking. Many companies also include trailers and operation of permanently attached equipment (aerial lift, dump body, etc.) into their driving tests.

c. Annual MVR Checks – An often forgotten part of driver management is checking the driving records of current employees. Obviously, your employees do not stop getting into accidents or earning traffic violations the moment they begin to work for you. Create an internal system to run the driving records of every driver at least once per year.


2) Fleet Management – The second way to lower your Business Auto cost is to ensure the vehicles in your fleet are used correctly, properly stored and maintained and free of any compliance issues. You can accomplish this by focusing on these four elements of Fleet Management.

a. Vehicle Inspection – Having a solid pre/post trip procedure in place, creates the opportunity to eliminate most maintenance issues with your vehicles. Not only is an inspection a compliance requirement, but it is the surest way for your vehicles to stay in tip top shape.

b. Vehicle Use Policy – Create a written policy that sets the expectation of who is allowed to drive the company vehicles and when they are allowed. This can be placed into your employee handbook or your fleet safety program. 

c. Vehicle Storage – Consider where the vehicles will be stored when not in use. Is your garage large enough to store all vehicles inside out of the elements, or do you not want to have all of your trucks in one place in case of a fire or tornado. The answer to the storage question will be different for each tree service, so work through the logistics for your company and be intentional about it.

    d. Compliance – Having a truck tagged out of service by a state trooper is a major productivity blow, plus the financial ramifications with a fine and the loss of use for that vehicle while it is out. We recommend having someone in your company be in charge of compliance for your fleet. Make sure you know if your state has their own DOT or if they only follow federal regulation. You can ask your insurance company to run a report (SAFER report) to get a snapshot of your historical compliance to start your effort at improving in this area. 


    3) Telematics – You’ve heard the phrase “data is king” right? Well it definitely pertains to your drivers and vehicles as well. There are many different vendors that offer a myriad of choices on what you can track and monitor with your drivers and vehicles. Installing a telematics program can give you so much accurate and individualized data that managing your drivers and vehicles can be very easy.


    4) Insurance Policy – The first three ways to lower your cost are all done within your company, however, there are items directly within your insurance policy that can be done to lower the cost as well.

    a. Presentation of Proactive Programs – If you’ve worked on the first three items within this article, make sure you let your insurance agent know about them. Give them a copy of the written procedures and a sample of the completed drivers test to prove that you are utilizing these tactics to lower your over-the-road risk. It is then the job of your insurance agent to sell this to the insurance company to get a lower premium at your renewal.

    b. Deductibles – Look into what options are available for your physical damage deductibles (Comprehensive and Collision coverage). You can look to raise the deductible or perhaps drop that coverage all together for older vehicles. I strongly believe that there is nothing wrong with self insuring, however, I want you to intentionally choose to self insure versus it happening to you because you did not have the right insurance coverage. 

    c. Vehicle Value – The value of your vehicle has a significant impact on your insurance cost. You want to make sure the value of the vehicle and any permanently attached equipment is accurate. 


    If you are struggling with the cost of your Business Auto policy and want to have some guidance on the points mentioned above, reach out to an ArboRisk team member today or be sure to check out our Thrive program at: https://arboriskinsurance.com/arborisks-thrive/

    Adding Large Equipment to Your Insurance Policy

    Adding Large Equipment to Your Insurance Policy

    Written by Ryan Watry

    Everything is getting more expensive these days.  This is true not only at the grocery store and gas pump but as the cost of equipment is also on the rise.  Due to the rise in cost in these pieces of equipment, insurance companies are starting to require more information when adding them to your policy.  Here is a quick guide to make sure that new equipment is added to your insurance policy without a problem.


    1. Give Lead Time

    Just like when you are purchasing a home or new vehicle, odds are you’ve done research and shopped around before buying the new equipment.  When you start looking for that new lift or chipper or whatever, it is a good idea to reach out to your insurance agent to let them know you are shopping around and that way if they need underwriting approval to add it your policy, they can start the conversation with the underwriter.

    2. Information required.

    Besides the standard information of year, make, model, serial number and value, the underwriter will potentially ask for more information.  This may include information on the equipment itself or on the people operating the equipment.  Sending over the spec sheets or pictures of the equipment gives the underwriter a better understanding of what that equipment is and what it does.  The underwriter may also ask about who is operating the item.  Typically, they want to know what experience that person has and what/if any training they’ve had.  Finally describing what jobs this item will be used on gives the underwriter a better understanding of what the equipment is needed for and how it will be used.

    3. Loan Information

    Odds are when you are purchasing this equipment you are taking a loan on it.  It is important to provide your agent with the name and address of the lending company so they can show proof of insurance to that lender.  If the lending company does not get this information, they will apply their own insurance and charge you for that.  Nobody wants to double on insurance so to avoid giving your agent the lending information is crucial.


    Buying a new piece of equipment can be exciting and potentially stressful time.  Hopefully the tips we just gave you can help take away some of the stress when buying and insuring your new large piece of equipment.

    If you are interested in having a conversation, or learning more, about how the Arborisk Thrive program and Consultants can help you strategically review and advance your company, please check out our Thrive website at: https://arboriskinsurance.com/arborisks-thrive/

    Money in the Bank? Spend it Strategically This year

    Money in the Bank? Spend it Strategically This Year

    Written by Kevin Martlage

    So, you had a successful year as the owner of your tree care company. In 2023, you increased sales, managed your expenses, hired a few new employees, allocated raises for those employees, bought some new equipment, and are now ready to move into the ‘off season’ and start to plan for 2024. That move to the off season may seem exciting due to the profit margin you drove last year and the ‘extra’ money you now have in the bank at the end of your fiscal year. As a business owner, that situation, while exciting, can also add extra stress as you try to determine what to reinvest back into your business as you work towards your mission and strategy.

    I have the honor to facilitate strategic planning with various organizations across the country.  Part of that planning is that I always encourage my clients to ‘take a deep breath’ at the end of every year, celebrate the success, but then refocus on the long-term sustainability of their company and employee support. This refocus and planning can be done in numerous ways, but the important thing is that you are strategic in how you approach your annual planning and budget allocations for the next year.

    As an entrepreneur and owner of your own company it is sometimes difficult to stay strategic regarding planning and reinvestment back into the company especially if you had a great year. Why mess with a good thing right? Additionally, it is sometimes difficult to stay strategic if you happen to be managing your business from your checkbook or your next invoice, perhaps not reaching all the goals you set for the year. Regardless of how successful you are and the year you just had; it is important to stay strategic in determining what you are going to do with the “money in the bank” as you advance your company. My recommendation is to determine how to spend it strategically.

    So, how do you start to strategically decide how to use that extra ‘money in the bank’ to further impact your organization? My suggestion is that you spend some time with your management team and use two of my favorite consultant tools known as, ‘start, stop, continue’ and good old fashion prioritization. By using the ‘start, stop, continue’ method you can begin to look at your organization critically regarding what’s next, what works, and what doesn’t. This review will ultimately help you determine what your strategic areas of focus should be as you reinvest in your company and your team. Once you begin to categorize your business into these areas you can then begin to prioritize next steps based on various factors such as budget, impact, resources, and effort.

    The easiest way to begin this analysis is to think of your company in three critical areas: People, Process, and Product. As you review each category, ask yourself the following questions about each:

    • Start – What do we need to start doing that we haven’t done in the past?
    • Stop – What do we need to stop doing that is negatively impacting the company?
    • Continue – What do we need to make sure we continue to ensure sustainability

    By reviewing these questions for each of the three critical areas (People, Process, Product) you will start to see trends and common themes that can be addressed. Once those themes have been identified, you can start to prioritize the items by looking at 4 additional areas of strategic review. Those areas include:

    • Cost / Budget
      • Start – What will it cost for us to implement the item(s)?
      • Stop – How much will we save if we stop the item(s)?
      • Continue – What is our return on investment if we maintain the item(s)?
    • Organizational and Strategic Impact
      • What is the overall impact this will have on our organization?
      • Pros?
      • Cons?
      • How does it align with our mission and goals?
    • Resources
      • Start – What resources will be needed to make this happen?
      • Stop – What resources will we save by eliminating the item(s)?
      • Continue – What resources are currently being used to maintain the item(s)?
    • Organizational Effort and Energy
      • Start – How much effort will be needed by the current team to implement?
      • Stop – How much time will it save the team if we no longer offer the item(s)?
      • Continue – How much energy is currently being devoted to the item(s) to maintain?

    Completing a deep-dive review of the various areas you can then start to prioritize what is next and where you want to adjust to strategically impact your organization. There are numerous ways to prioritize, but a process I like to use is a simple exercise that requires you to compare each item individually against every other item being considered. This will help you identify the priority in how you want to strategically proceed if you are having issues in deciding. Typically, when you go through the start, stop, continue exercise and 2nd level review, it is clear the highest priority. However, if you are having issues in determining what is next, you can use the provided worksheet as a guide.


    FREE Priority Worksheet from Nextier!

    Having money in the bank is a good thing. Determining what to do with that extra money can be exciting, but also daunting, especially if you are new to the ownership / leadership game.  Thinking critically and strategically about your organization is difficult especially when you factor in the emotional ties and effort in building your company from the ground up. To help facilitate this review process, I encourage you to look at identifying a trusted advisor or outside consultant to help you navigate through this process and strategic advancement of your organization. While this typically requires a financial investment to contract with a consultant, the return on investment regarding the impact the outside support will provide typically pays for itself when done properly. This is especially true as you continue to reinvest in your team and their development while aligning their skills with the strategic direction of your organization.

    The great Walt Disney once said,

    “We don’t make movies to make money, we make money to make more movies.”

    This quote is very relevant as you continue to strategically evaluate your tree care company. Sure, we all want to make money, but it is the top-level tree care work that allows you to make that money to then reinvest in your company, your people, your equipment, and ultimately your customers. It is my humble opinion that the strategic stewardship of your profits, assets, resources, and team should be the focus of any owner/entrepreneur as they continue to impact their customers and the industry they love. That strategic focus and reinvestment will allow you to effectively advance your company, while building a sustainable foundation for continued ‘money in the bank’ and organizational impact.


    If you are interested in having a conversation, or learning more, about how the Arborisk Thrive program and Consultants can help you strategically review and advance your company, please check out our Thrive website at: https://arboriskinsurance.com/arborisks-thrive/

    What Is Your Leadership Passion

    What Is Your Leadership Passion?

    Written by Kevin Martlage

    When doing some research for this weekly tip, I ran across a January 2023 Forbes article written by John Hall titled, “With over 800 Definitions for Leadership, Here Are 5 You Need to Know and Why.” The number 800 caught my attention immediately and before reading the article I began to think to myself, are there really 800 definitions of Leadership and if so, how in the world is someone supposed to understand and utilize them all to become a great leader?  

    While I pondered the question of pursuing leadership excellence and growth, I thought back to a quote from the great Vince Lombardi that provided some insight. One of the greatest football coaches of all time noted,

    “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”

    So how as a leader can we continue to ‘catch’ leadership excellence by chasing leadership perfection? My thought is you must not only define your leadership approach and style but more importantly your leadership passion. Without passion, excellence is always very difficult to pursue. There have been thousands of great leaders in this world and there will continue to be thousands more, but as a leader, how do you focus on impacting those you are leading as you ‘catch leadership excellence’ by chasing ‘perfection’? To help answer that question I’d like to provide you with some insight into my concept of defining your Leadership Passion.

    Throughout my career I have had the opportunity to lead hundreds of great people across the country and around the world. While I had formal leadership training working for Xerox and Fedex Office, it was not until later in my career that I formerly defined my leadership approach and specifically my leadership passion. Understanding this was another turning point in my career and I’d like to share with you how I defined it to help you define yours.

    As I think back about my career leadership opportunities, it is sometimes difficult to pin-point what specifically my approach was to each team. While I always ensured my big three (communication, transparency, and trust) were at the center of my leadership style, there was something else that I could never truly define. This missing definition was the “x-factor” or the unwritten thing that drove me to continue to strive to be a great leader. At the beginning of my career, it was all about the title, salary, and the ‘next step’ or promotion. Later, work-life balance and security became important as my wife, and I started our family. Eventually it then became more important for me to help facilitate change, impact, and the growth of those around me. While all those things are important and typical when you look at a leader’s work ‘life cycle’ I still could not define what my actual approach and definition was. What was it that drove me to strive to be a better leader? What helped me to continue to drive towards excellence? What was my why?

    After a lot of reflection, understanding, and thought I realized that what helped me be a better leader was not my ability to drive results and teamwork through communication, transparency, and the building of trust, but it was my passion for the pursuit of transformation that allowed me to continue to focus on those things. A passion that was centered around helping others transform as they identified and reached their personal and professional goals. When I began to focus on others instead of myself, the passion level increased, and I was more effective leading organizations, employees, and teams on their path of growth and the transformation of their lives, work, and impact. This was especially true when I told my team about my leadership passion and approach. Communicating my passion and approach ensured we were on the same page from day one and allowed us to better understand each other as we continued forward together.

    Transformation is never easy, but as I continued to focus my efforts on helping others become aware of their goals, impact, and ability it allowed me to become a more supportive and impactful leader as I pursued my passion of helping others. So, leader to leader, I’d like to ask you, what is your leadership passion? How would you define your leadership approach and how would your employees define it? What is your unique purpose when it comes to leadership and what is driving you to be the best leader you can be? Defining, understanding, and leveraging your Leadership Passion is something that I know can help anyone on their journey of pursuing leadership excellence.

    To begin to define your Leadership Passion I would suggest reflecting on what you enjoyed most about each step in your career. Think past the obvious answers of more responsibility, more money, or a better title and focus on what was at the core of your happiness. While we all have good and bad days at the office, even the worst days have a glimmer of light if we really think about it. Perhaps that tough conversation with someone about performance eventually led to them having a personal awareness around how they impact the team which resulted in them becoming more of a team player. Maybe that difficult job that had to be completed over budget with lots of overtime helped you as a business owner identify a better approach to estimating and oversight. Whatever the situation, think critically about what it is in each step of your career that was ‘good’ and excited you as a leader. Some other questions might be:

    • What excited me about being a leader in that job?
    • What worked, and did I like, regarding my leadership approach?
    • Were there approaches to some teams that were more effective than others?
    • What seemed to resonate the most with the team regarding my approach?

    Once you have some thoughts around those things, begin to then think about how you would then explain that to someone else. Don’t try to wordsmith your definition to death, but rather start to get some key terms identified that truly define your passion for leadership and your approach. As an example, I define my leadership passion and approach the following way:

    “As a leader, I passionately pursue transformation through transparency,  communication, and trust while impacting and serving others.”

    There is no right or wrong way to define your Leadership Passion and approach. Defining it takes time and you will probably revise it numerous times, however getting initial thoughts on paper is key as you begin to then communicate it to those you are leading. By letting those you are leading know and understand your definition you will continue to align your leadership approach with your team’s perception of that approach. This alignment will then allow your team to not only advance but will continue to enhance your impact as a leader. 

    The 6th President of the United States, John Quincy Adams, summarized this thought about leadership passion and the pursuit of leadership excellence the best by saying,

    “If your actions inspire other to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.”

    While there probably are 800 definitions of leadership, my challenge is that the true definition of leadership is how you define it and what works for you and the team you are leading. Focusing on your leadership passion and approach while letting those you are leading understand that approach is key to your continued success as a leader. 


    If you are interested in having a conversation or learning more about defining your Leadership Passion be sure to check out our Thrive program at: https://arboriskinsurance.com/arborisks-thrive/