Allstate Corp (NYSE: ALL) just became the first major publicly traded insurance company to create a policy for ride-sharing or network transportation drivers.
Few details are available about the Ride for Hire policy, but the Associated Press reported that it will cost $15 to $20 a year. That number seems far too low; livery insurance (policies designed specifically for hire cars) can cost several thousand dollars a year for one vehicle.
The AP article did not mention what Ride for Hire would cover or how much coverage it would provide. From the description, Ride for Hire sounds like a gap insurance policy that would cover drivers while they were on the way to pick up fares or cruising around looking for riders. Gap insurance policies are designed to cover holes in coverage.
The drivers would still need livery insurance of some sort while they were actually carrying a passenger. That could get drivers into trouble fast because two of the three major networked transportation companies, Uber and Lyft, provide insurance to drivers while they carry a passenger. The third major ride-hailing app, Sidecar, does not, according to the AP.
Ride for Hire will roll out in Colorado, Texas and Virginia this year and could appear in other states in 2016, the Associated Press reported. The reason for the spotty rollout is that insurance requirements vary widely from state to state. Some states, including Nevada and Kansas (where Uber has effectively pulled out), have stringent requirements.
Important Questions Still Remain
If the low cost mentioned in the article is real, it might pay for Uber to simply buy such policies for its drivers. Networked transportation companies might be waiting until the courts rule on the status of their drivers and insurance requirements until they make that move.
At least three other insurers, Farmers, Berkshire Hathaway’s (NYSE: BRK.A) GEICO and USAA, are also testing policies for networked transportation drivers, according to the AP. Those policies have not been widely publicized, probably because the details have not been worked out yet.
One reason why auto insurers are offering these policies is that the market for traditional auto insurance seems to be contracting. The rate of growth for auto insurance sales is slowing, according to the Transunion Auto Insurance Shopping Index, Property Casualty 360 reported. Rates of car insurance shopping have fallen off dramatically in some states, including Florida, where rates fell by 14%.
The industry is also facing other trends, such as a potential decline in the number of drivers in the years ahead. An aging population and a growing number of younger people that do not drive could decrease the demand for traditional auto insurance in coming years.
Networked Transportation the Next Frontier for Insurance
Networked transportation could offer new opportunities for insurance as it expands. Uber is now delivering meals in Chicago and New York through its Uber Eats service. A company called Cargomatic is hoping to become the Uber for truckers; TechCrunch reported that Cargomatic raised $8 million from investors in January. Uber is also experimenting with bicycle messengers, moving, package delivery and other services. Other opportunities include Google’s delivery service, Google Express.
Auto insurance could be a gateway for selling other products, such as disability insurance, bonding, life insurance and health insurance, to networked transportation drivers and others in the gig economy. The potential profits to be made could be enormous; a survey that Edelman Berland conducted for the Freelancers Union found that 53 million Americans, or 34% of the population, are involved in some sort of freelance work.
Those freelancers generated around $715 billion in revenue, and networked drivers are one of the bright spots. Uber claims to have collected $30 million in shares in Miami alone within the last year, The Miami Herald reported.
It looks as if networked transportation is the next frontier for insurance companies. One has to wonder when Google will enter the market.