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Podcast: Behind the Scenes of Freight Insurance with Chad Eichelberger of Reliance Partners

Chad Eichelberger

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Insurance is a huge part of transportation, especially given that it is federally mandated, but it can be an overwhelming topic.

On this episode, we’re diving into this crucial aspect of the freight industry with Chad Eichelberger, President of Reliance Partners. He joins host Brent Hutto to discuss his journey through freight insurance, including his management of the 2008 recession at Access America, how he scaled Reliance Partners, and what freight insurance agencies are looking at when working with freight brokers.

The power of grit and strategic planning

In 2008, the Great Recession hit. 

Companies were faced with two options: buckle down and weather the storm or be aggressive and leverage the challenging marketplace, outworking everybody and increasing their market share.

At the time, Chad was working for Access America, and the team took the latter approach, hustling through. They constantly focused on building good relationships with carriers and customers who knew they could depend on them while having contingency plans in place for all the ‘what if’ scenarios that could be thrown at them. They were never afraid to take a loss on a shipment, knowing that by providing business they were setting themselves up for success. 

The result? They managed to grow from $42 million to $56 million in revenue in the year in a less-than-desirable market, which was a testament to the fact that you need grit to succeed.

“I can remember going ‘08, ‘09, we grew $42 to 56 million in revenue during the period of that one year. And so that wasn’t the growth we were accustomed to in a favorable market, but it was still growth nonetheless, so we were very aggressive during that [recession].”

Relationships can help you scale

When Chad first joined Reliance Partners, he worked closely with CEO Andrew Ladebauche to help scale the company. Whenever you grow, cash flow usually is your number one concern. Fortunately for Reliance, they had supportive investors who allowed them to make strategic hiring decisions early on, getting in good talent for all facets of the business early. 

Their other primary focus was gaining good market access. Both Andrew and Chad profiled existing competitors and monitored new freight insurance companies. By doing so, they could create a competitive map for each geographic area they expanded into. This approach gave them insight into key players, helping them build relationships and avoid losing markets before gaining leverage. They continue this practice today to stay ahead of the curve.

“We run across these states and you’ve got to kind of build this competitive map of what it looks like, who are the players, who do we need to get in front of. And so it would drive us crazy to lose to a market we don’t know anything about so we would immediately try to go, Hey, let’s schedule time with him. Let’s do this. And then we started leveraging tech to help tell us who those markets were and how we do that.”

Insurance for brokers

Reliance Partners offers freight insurance for freight brokers of all sizes, but like any other insurer, it has a checklist for who it is willing to insure and in what capacity. Thus, Chad advises brokers to be transparent and clear on what they want out of their insurance policies before talking to an agency. 

For example, what are your goals from a cargo perspective? Are you looking to take on some risk or are you looking to shield yourself from some risk? 

Answering those questions will give both parties an idea of the relationship and a clear view into the right solutions for your needs.

Chad explains that insurance agencies often scrutinize the structure of an entire organization, paying particular attention to financial backing and investors. They assess overall operations, identifying potential liabilities and evaluating the organization’s risk tolerance.

“I think you’ve got to look at their whole operation and where are their potential liabilities? Where are they going to rise? What is their level of comfort for that?”

To learn more about Chad and freight insurance, tune into this episode of Freight Nation: A Trucking Podcast on Apple, Spotify, or your favorite podcast platform.

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