Best Motor Truck Cargo Insurance Companies of 2023

Published 2/22/2023

While not legally required in most cases, motor truck cargo insurance is still essential for most carriers.

To help you find the right policy, we’ve reviewed the best cargo insurance companies based on coverage, customer experience, pricing, and financial strength.

For those just looking for a few recommendations, below are our top picks. Keep reading to learn more about motor truck cargo insurance including what it covers, insurance requirements, how much it costs, and more.

Best Overall
Great for New Trucking Companies
Best for Fleets
By clicking “Get Quote” or calling you will go to one of our insurance partners.  The providers above may not be one of the providers in their network at this time.
About the author
Kyle Fretwell of TruckInfo.net
Kyle Fretwell has worked as a researcher and data-journalist for over a decade. His work has appeared in publications such as Bloomberg, Fox Business, MSN, USA Today, CNBC, and the Houston Chronicle.

He now manages TruckInfo.net's content team and is a regular fixture at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville.

What is motor truck cargo insurance?

Motor truck cargo insurance is a type of inland marine insurance that protects freight while it’s being transported by a carrier.

Some policies also extend coverage to cargo while it is being loaded/unloaded or while it is at a terminal or dock waiting to be distributed.

Who needs it?

While not required by law in most cases, all for-hire motor carriers will be required to carry motor truck cargo coverage by their shippers and brokers.

Most private carriers also carry cargo insurance to protect their own freight.

For interstate carriers transporting household goods, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) actually does mandate coverage. Intrastate carriers not regulated by the FMCSA may still be required to carry coverage by state law if transporting household goods.

Types of Cargo Insurance

Motor carriers can purchase commercial cargo insurance in one of three ways:

  • Combined Policy – Cargo insurance can be packaged with other coverage under a single commercial truck insurance policy.
  • Stand-alone Cargo Insurance – Trucking companies that transport unusual freight may need to shop for stand-alone insurance to find an insurance provider with the right risk appetite. Companies may also opt for a stand-alone policy based on policy options or pricing.
  • Truck Load Insurance – Technically a form of stand-alone, truck load insurance is also available. This is most commonly used when a carrier is transporting cargo that is much more valuable than a typical load or when all of their loads vary in price by a significant amount.

Cargo Insurance Requirements

While cargo insurance is no longer mandated by the FMCSA for most for-hire motor carriers, practically speaking trucking companies still need to cary coverage. However, requirements can vary.

  • Interstate For-Hire Carrier (Household Goods) – The FMCSA requires $5,000 in coverage per vehicle and $10,000 per occurrence 
  • Intrastate For-Hire Carrier (Household Goods) – Most states require similar requirements as the FMCSA but carriers will need to check with their state’s regulatory body.
  • Inter/Intrastate For-Hire Carrier (Non-Household Goods) – While not required to carry cargo insurance by law, most shippers and brokers require at least $100,000 in coverage.
  • Private Carrier – Private carriers have complete control over their freight insurance but most will want to carry enough to replace lost or damaged cargo.

What does motor truck cargo insurance cover?

Motor truck cargo insurance covers freight that is lost or damaged while being transported and also the expenses a carrier incurs as a result of lost or damaged cargo.

Most policies will cover the following:

  • Replacing lost or damaged cargo
  • Debris removal or pollutant cleanup from the site of an incident
  • Traffic control and security
  • Towing and reloading cargo after an incident
  • Earned freight coverage, which covers losses from the failure to deliver a load
  • Contractual penalties
  • Attorney fees, court fees, and settlements

Regarding the events that are covered, commercial freight insurance can be broken down into two broad categories: all-risk policies and named perils policies.

All-Risk Policies

Sometimes referred to as open perils policies, all-risk policies cover all causes of loss or damage unless they are specifically excluded. Because all-risk policies are more comprehensive, premiums are typically higher.

Named Perils Policies

As the name implies, named perils policies only cover specific types of events named in the policy. Events commonly covered include:

  • Collisions and accidents
  • Theft 
  • Hijacking
  • Vandalism
  • Severe weather events
  • Fire and/or explosions
  • Riots or civil unrest

What does it not cover?

While coverage will vary by insurer, most policies will not cover the following scenarios:

  • Cargo not listed on the bill of lading
  • Cargo that has been stored for extended periods
  • Cargo that has been left in a truck parked in an unsecured location
  • Cargo while it is being loaded/unloaded (unless specified in the policy)
  • Other property that is owned by the insured (tarps, etc)

Common Exclusions

In addition to the scenarios above, most policies exclude the following events:

  • Criminal, dishonest, or negligent acts by the carrier
  • Governmental seizure
  • Nuclear hazards
  • War and other military action
  • Damage to goods or loss of goods due to poor packing or handling
  • Indirect losses caused by delays, loss of use, or economic conditions
  • Extreme temperatures or moisture
  • Damaged cargo caused by defects in the property or by deterioration, for example corrosion or rust
  • Insects or vermin
  • Voluntary surrender of goods as a result of fraud by the carrier

Additionally, refrigerated cargo that spoils because of an equipment breakdown will only be covered if the insurance policy includes a reefer breakdown endorsement. However, if the refrigeration equipment breaks down from a covered event, like an accident, the cargo would be covered under the standard cargo insurance policy.

Specialty Cargo

Lastly, while nearly all cargo can be insured, most policies exclude high-value freight so a specialty policy may be required. Cargo frequently requiring a specialty policy includes:

  • Animals
  • Art
  • Automobiles
  • Explosive, radioactive, or other hazardous materials
  • Furs
  • Gold, precious metals or stones
  • Jewelry
  • Currency or stamps
  • Shipping containers

How much does cargo insurance cost?

Cargo insurance typically costs motor carriers $500-$2,000 a year in premiums for a $100,000 policy limit. However, costs can vary widely based on the type of cargo, the driver’s history, and more.

While cargo insurance can be purchased as a stand-alone product, most policies are bundled together with other truck insurance policies like physical damage insurance, trailer interchange coverage, and occupational accident insurance.

Cheap Cargo Insurance

While the cheapest cargo insurance isn’t always the best option, there a few tricks carriers can use to find an affordable policy. To find the best rate, carriers should:

  • Get multiple quotes
  • Ask if discounts are available for paying premiums upfront
  • Opt for a higher deductible
  • Equip vehicles with dash cams, location tracking, and other safety equipment

Comparing Options

To curate our list of the best cargo insurance companies, we started with more than 20 popular insurance carriers and then narrowed down our list based on the following factors.

  • Coverage – What types of trucking companies and cargo will they cover
  • Custom Experience – How do industry organizations like the National Association of Insurance Commissioners report customer satisfaction and what is their online experience
  • Pricing – How easily can companies get a quote and what discounts are available
  • Financial Strength – Will brokers or shippers have any issue with their insurance coverage

Policy Limits, Premiums & Deductibles

While our list below is a great starting point, ultimately it’s important to get quotes from multiple companies to compare coverage, premiums, policy limits, deductibles, and customer service.

Most buyers will want to work with an insurance agent but some sell directly to trucking companies.

Best Cargo Insurance Companies

Progressive
Best Overall

Pros

  • Will insure new ventures & drivers
  • Discount programs for safe driving

Cons

Coverage

  • Only covers for-hire carriers
  • Not available in all states but will need to speak with an agent
  • Doesn’t cover garbage trucks, limos, hearses, busses, passenger vans, or ice cream trucks

Customer Experience

Pricing

  • Online quotes
  • Discounts for experienced and safe drivers/companies
  • Paid-in-full discounts available

Financial Strength

  • A+ from A.M. Best

OOIDA Truck Insurance
Great for New Trucking Companies

Pros

  • Will insure new ventures & drivers
  • Competitive rates

Cons

  • Not rated by A.M. Best

Coverage

  • Wide range of limits
  • Covers debris removal, earned freight, and reefer

Customer Experience

  • Low complaint ratio with NAIC
  • Not tech-forward

Pricing

  • Competitive rates
  • Need to work with an agent
  • Online payments available

Financial Strength

  • Not rated by A.M. Best so some brokers and shippers may not work with carriers using OOIDA

The Hartford
Best for Fleets

Pros

  • Flexible coverage options
  • Wide risk appetite

Cons

  • Not available to new ventures
  • Slightly above average complaint ratio with NAIC

Coverage

Customer Experience

  • Slightly above average complaint ratio with NAIC
  • Ranked #1 by Keynova Group for small commercial insurance

Pricing

  • No online quoting available
  • Will need to work with an agent

Financial Strength

  • A- from A.M. Best

Zurich
Best for Stand-Alone Cargo Insurance

Pros

  • Offers stand-alone cargo coverage
  • Wide range of coverage options

Cons

  • Only insures experienced drivers with clean driving records
  • Won’t insure all types of trucking companies

Coverage

  • Insures fleets of 1-30 vehicles
  • Limits up to $250k per vehicle & $500k per occurrence
  • Insures most cargo including reefer and livestock
  • Not available in Hawaii, Alaska, or Puerto Rico
  • Doesn’t insure household good movers, auto haulers, oversize/overweight vehicles, or hazmat truckers

Customer Experience

  • High complaint ratio with NAIC

Pricing

  • Will need to work with an agent

Financial Strength

  • A+ from A.M. Best

Sentry

Pros

  • Low complaint ratio with NAIC
  • Top 20 commercial auto insurer by premiums

Cons

  • Will need to work with an agent
  • Limited info online

Coverage

Customer Experience

  • Low complaint ratio with NAIC
  • Top 20 commercial auto insurer by premiums

Pricing

  • Limited information available online
  • Will need to work with an agent

Financial Strength

  • A+ from A.M. Best

AXA XL

Pros

  • Low complaint ratio with NAIC

Cons

  • Doesn’t insure small fleets
  • Will need to work with an agent

Coverage

Customer Experience

  • Low complaint ratio with NAIC

Pricing

  • No online quoting
  • Will need to work with an agent

Financial Strength

  • A+ from A.M. Best

Great American

Pros

  • Wide range of coverage options
  • Flexible policies

Cons

  • High complaint ratio
  • Will need to work with an agent

Coverage

Customer Experience

  • High complaint ratio
  • Will need to work with an agent

Pricing

  • Low minimum premiums
  • Customizable policy limits & deductibles

Financial Strength

  • A+ from A.M. Best

State Farm

Pros

  • Available in all 50 states

Cons

  • Doesn’t specialize in trucking
  • High complaint ratio with NAIC

Coverage

  • All 50 states

Customer Experience

  • High complaint ratio with NAIC
  • Ranked 2nd in the 2022 JD Power survey on customer satisfaction for service

Pricing

  • No online quoting
  • Will need to work with an agent

Financial Strength

  • A++ from A.M. Best

FAQs

Does Geico offer motor truck cargo insurance?

No, Geico does not offer cargo insurance nor do they insure semi-trucks.

Does cargo insurance cover the truck?

No, any damage done to the insured’s truck or trailer is covered under a physical damage policy.

Does cargo insurance cover parked loads?

Most policies will cover parked loads but only if the vehicle is in a secure area. Leaving a semi-truck on a city road over night would not be considered a secure area.

How much cargo insurance do I need?

Most shippers and brokers require for-hire carriers to have at least $100k in coverage.

What is the difference between motor truck cargo and transportation coverage?

While motor truck cargo, sometimes referred to as motor carrier cargo insurance, is insurance designed for carriers to purchase, transportation insurance is typically purchased by the shipper. The carrier’s insurance is typically the first line of defense and the shippers insurance covers in the gaps.

What’s the difference between carrier liability and cargo insurance?

Motor carriers are legally required to carry primary liability insurance, sometimes referred to as carrier liability, to protect damage or injuries to third parties and their properties. Primary liability doesn’t cover goods being transported, however, which is why carriers also need cargo insurance.

What’s the difference between motor truck cargo and contingent cargo?

Motor truck cargo insurance is most frequently purchased by for-hire motor carriers and is sometimes referred to as motor truck cargo legal liability insurance.

When purchased by a for-hire motor carrier, it acts as a form of carrier liability insurance that protects third-party goods while in their possession. Coverage should not be confused with contingent cargo insurance, which is typically purchased by a shipper, broker, or freight forwarder.

While shippers, brokers, and freight forwarders require trucking companies hauling their loads to carry motor truck cargo insurance, they usually also purchase contingent cargo insurance for several reasons:

  1. Motor truck cargo coverage typically does not insure the full value of the cargo
  2. Motor truck cargo coverage claims are managed by the carrier instead of the shipper/broker/freight forwarder
  3. Motor truck cargo liability insurance is more likely to have a claim denied by the insurance company
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