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Part 3: Truck Insurance - Environmental Liability Insurance

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As a professional dump truck operator, would you say your current dump truck insurance policy includes adequate environmental and pollution liability insurance coverage?  

Consider the following scenario:

A dump truck operator hauling a load of dirt and rocks fails to negotiate a turn in the road. The load shifts, the truck overturns landing on its side. As a result, an unexpected discharge of cargo occurs. The contents spill down the sharp embankment and into the stream below. Thankfully, the driver is unhurt albeit a bit embarrassed and disappointed. This incident is the first loss on his otherwise spotless driving record spanning over 25 years.

The driver quickly notifies his insurance company of the accident, confident that his Commercial General Liability (CGL) dump truck insurance will cover the cost for the "simple" clean up of the spilled material. However, the answer he received was not what he expected.

A careful examination of the driver's CGL insurance policy showed it excludes coverage for environmental liabilities and losses resulting from such pollution related conditions.  But, how could there possibly be any adverse effects to the environment from the material he was hauling? His cargo, after all, was a load of 'clean' material comprised of dirt and rocks. Yes, some spilled into the waterway below. But, dirt and rocks are naturally occurring materials, similar to what was already in the stream!  

The inconvenient truth of the matter is that even some natural materials - however harmless they may seem - have potential to cause "pollution conditions". Federal environmental regulations such as the Clean Water Act (CWA) have broadened the definition of "pollutants" beyond that of man-made toxic chemicals or hazardous wastes. In the scenario above, the dirt and rocks could be considered pollutants because they ended up in a place different from where they originated and contaminated one of the "waters of the United States".

Because of the pollution exclusion in the dump truck driver's CGL insurance policy, the environmental liability was not covered. The resulting out-of-pocket costs for full environmental restoration and recovery of the embankment and stream had a devastating impact on his dump truck business.

How can you be certain your current dump truck insurance would provide adequate environmental and pollution liability coverage in such a case? Review your policy with your agent today. Consider purchasing dump truck environmental liability coverage to cover any pollution exclusion 'gaps' in your existing CGL policy.

The alternative of not having coverage is too costly, both to you and the environment.