Motor carriers have traditionally been paper-based businesses with bills of lading, inspection reports, delivery receipts, and other necessary operational documents kept in tangible files. As more trucking businesses go digital, they are entering a new world of improved efficiency that also comes with larger data volume and increased cyber risk.
Trucking companies are becoming more connected through digital networks and utilizing new technologies, including but not limited to:
- Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) that monitor drivers’ hours of service
- Logistic Efficiency Planning Systems
- Maintenance Sensors using software that informs insureds in real-time when maintenance is required
- Refrigeration technology to monitor cargo temperature and status
BENEFITS OF DIGITIZATION FOR MOTOR CARRIERS
Digitization benefits trucking companies in many ways. It enables trucking companies to work smarter by minimizing human error when entering or adjusting figures. Traditionally, administrative personnel must manage multiple spreadsheets and utilize several data sources to piece together needed operational information or reports. This can be cumbersome and lead to errors.
Going digital also creates trackable, reviewable data points for each operational step, making it easier to gain key insights into each aspect of the business. Operational intelligence outputs can then be viewed via digital dashboards that cut across the whole trucking organization. This allows management to track trends and issues impacting various parts of the business. Instant access to comprehensive data can help motor carriers avoid making real-time decisions based on outdated data as important factors evolve.1
Superior operational intelligence also empowers motor carriers to generate more accurate estimates and predictions that mitigate operational risks. For example, using data to anticipate driver behavior allows motor carriers to create proactive communication alerts. When issues such as upcoming driver physical exams or other compliance events occur, this helps companies to be prepared. Digital interfaces can also let new team members read policies online and complete training virtually, which helps ensure regulatory compliance.1
All of the benefits of having multiple connected systems also further expose motor carriers to the real and growing threat of cyber events, such as network failures and cyberattacks. Trucking companies maintain a significant amount of data on vehicle status, employees, customers, and cargo. As a result a substantial amount of sensitive information is at risk and contracts are evolving to require the purchase of cyber insurance coverage. Additionally, as trucks are modernized, it’s possible for cyber criminals to hijack certain processes within them, ultimately controlling or compromising the vehicle by de-rating the engine, draining the DEF or other sensors, or creating safety issues by disabling the brakes or other functionality.2
CYBERSECURITY IS BECOMING A NEW FOCAL POINT
Trucking industry leaders recognize the importance of digitization to the success of motor carriers’ business and the industry’s future.1 As they push for improvements, they are also taking steps to improve cybersecurity. SAE International and the International Standards Organization (ISO) are currently developing a cybersecurity standard for connected vehicles. This standard would apply to modern trucks that communicate with dispatchers and each other through digital equipment and sensors. The proposed standard includes a series of practices aimed at improving security for in-vehicle networks, telematics, and data transfer.2 While these standards are in development, motor carriers would be wise to take a proactive stance around their cyber risks.
HOW CYBER COVERAGE HELPS MITIGATE CYBER RISKS
Regardless of the avenue of attack, the process of recovering after a cyber event can be a costly endeavor. Any insured needs to be prepared to immediately implement a response plan that minimizes losses and recovery time. For example, if cargo refrigeration technology is compromised and products spoil, the client may find they’re on the hook for the unusable cargo. However, a properly endorsed cyber policy can be a valuable solution. A cyber insurance policy provides a solid framework and key resources needed for response and recovery. Some cyber carriers even employ dedicated teams able to step in and work with policyholders to develop and execute a response and recovery strategy. It’s also important to note that reputational harm resulting from a cyberattack can also be covered by a cyber policy. In an industry as competitive as transportation or trucking, the resulting reputational harm can be devastating without the expertise and benefits of a cyber policy.
Damages for bodily injury and property damage arising from a cyberattack are typically excluded under an insured’s other lines of insurance, leading to a coverage gap that a cyber policy can help address. Business interruption is another important area to consider with regards to cyber coverage. When an insured is sidelined because of an attack it’s vital that the company be able to maintain business flow, which can be immensely difficult without the right cyber coverage.
HOW RETAIL AGENTS CAN HELP INSUREDS
Cyber criminals tend to develop attacks that start out small, then dig deeper until they find valuable data to steal or encrypt before making a ransom demand. Because the vast majority of motor carriers are small to midsize businesses with fewer than six power units, even a modest cyber event can be devastating. Retail insurance agents have an important role to play as motor carriers grapple with cyber risks. Agents can help their trucking clients by encouraging them to explore the following:
- Understand their data. Motor carriers may not hold thousands of credit card records like a retail store would, but even small trucking firms have valuable personal information on their drivers, as well as sensitive financial information for shippers. Knowing the types of data motor carriers maintain is the first step in making sure data is held securely.
- Build a cybersecurity response plan. When a cyber event is discovered, time is of the essence – especially if the incident is a ransomware attack. If a business is locked out of its data and systems, costs mount with each passing minute. Creating a cybersecurity response plan can help ensure a swift and focused response should an incident occur. Many insurance carriers now offer cybersecurity services that can help clients develop an action plan and mitigate the risk if a company falls victim to cybercrime.
- Back up data. Routine data backups are recommended during the normal course of business. If a motor carrier is struck by a ransomware attack, the backup data may be the only option for rapid restoration of operations. Even though hackers demanding ransom tend to provide decryption keys because failing to do so would deter victims from paying, there are no guarantees that an attacker will refrain from stealing sensitive data in the process. Backups are a solid practice regardless of a company’s current cybersecurity posture.
- Use email filtering tools. Malware is commonly initiated through email phishing attacks that include links for unsuspecting recipients to open. Even with continuous employee training, phishing attempts often succeed because hackers have become highly skilled at imitating official-looking emails purporting to be from a known or trusted source. Email filtering tools can help scan and segregate emails with suspicious links or unverified attachments before they ever enter an employee’s inbox.
- Implement Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). Multi-Factor Authentication is typically a two-step process used to verify a user’s authority to access a network or account. MFA commonly employs temporary numeric or alphanumeric codes sent to an alternate device, such as a mobile phone or email account. This process makes it more difficult for unauthorized users to gain access and is considered a fundamental piece of modern cyber risk management.
- Cyber insurance coverage options. Most auto and cargo policies contain cyber exclusions, and in policies where cyber coverage is provided through endorsement, limits are usually low. Retailers can greatly assist insureds by working with a wholesale specialist to explore coverages that best fit modern motor carrier needs. Most stand-alone cyber policies available today come with a host of security services, which offer significant value to small and midsize businesses, including motor carriers.
While the above steps are a solid starting place, once a motor carrier implements them, it’s wise to continue to refine them over time. It’s also important to educate employees about the rising risk of cybercrime as motor carriers join the ranks of connected enterprises exposed to cyber incidents.
The capacity to leverage business data is a critical component of growth and success in today’s economy. This is especially true in the trucking industry where sophisticated motor carrier units have the ability to generate highly useful data that facilitates timely data-driven decision making.1 However, leveraging digital technology isn’t without risk. Retailers can take several steps with motor carrier clients to enhance their cyber risk management and prevent costly losses. Minimum cybersecurity standards are generally required by cyber insurance underwriters. Because the cyber risk landscape continues to evolve, some markets are imposing additional requirements. Having appropriate cyber insurance in place offers more than peace of mind. For motor carriers that experience a cyber event, it can mean the difference between staying in business or leaving the road permanently. Agents are encouraged to reach out to their local CRC Group producer to learn more about how we can help motor carrier clients obtain the best available cyber coverage.
- Chris Hunter is a Broker specializing in Transportation with CRC Group’s Houston, Texas office.
- McCulle Wright is an ExecPro Broker with CRC Group’s Dallas, TX office.
- “Going from paper to digital has become vital for trucking success,” George Thellman, Commercial Carrier Journal, March 9, 2021; https://www.ccjdigital.com/technology/documentation-software/article/15064137/go-from-paper-to-digital-for-trucking-success
- “Emerging Standards Shield Trucks from Cyberattacks,” Connor D. Wolf, Transport Topics, June 14, 2022; https://www.ttnews.com/articles/emerging-standards-shield-trucks-cyberattacks
- Economics and Industry Data, American Trucking Association, February 2021. https://www.trucking.org/economics-and-industry-data
- Trucking Statistics, TruckInfo, June 1, 2022. https://www.truckinfo.net/research/trucking-statistics