MA commercial truckers take note: New requirement to carry US DOT number in September


delivery trucks and vans

If you are a Massachusetts commercial trucker engaged in intrastate commerce take note: Effective September 1, 2018, you must obtain and display a US DOT number for designated vehicles. The number must be obtained and filed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and made visible on vehicle markings by that date, as per 540 CMR 2.22, the Commercial Marking section of the Registry of Motor Vehicles regulations.

According to State Police, “failure to obtain and display a USDOT number on your vehicles may result in a civil fine and/or placing your CMVs Out of Service until such time as your company obtains a USDOT Number.”

What MA commercial vehicles does this affect?

According to the MA Association of Insurance Agents, “The changes could affect customers that are written on a Massachusetts Auto Policy class 30 such as plumbers, carpenters, electrician, etc.”

The MA Department of Public Utilities Transportation Oversight says that affected vehicles include those that are:

  • Engaged in intrastate commerce having a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 or more pounds; or
  • Used in the transportation of hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placarding; or
  • Designed to transport more than 15 passengers including the driver, used in intrastate commerce in Massachusetts.

Note: Intrastate operation means you conduct business solely within Massachusetts.

How do you obtain a US DOT number?

According to the MA State Police, to obtain a USDOT, go to the FMSCA website. Follow links to obtain an intrastate USDOT number. Your company will be issued a USDOT number that must be displayed on all CMVs that your company operates, including leased vehicles. There is no charge to obtain this number from the USDOT-FMCSA.

What are the new rules about DOT markings?

For guidance on displaying the DOT number on your vehicles, see:

 

Seniors: Be alert for a new Medicare scam


Nationwide, commissioners of insurance departments and state attorneys general are sounding the alert: there’s a new wave of Medicare scams.

Medicare is issuing new cards to beneficiaries – they started mailing them in April and it will take a year to distribute them all. The purpose of the new cards is to make them more secure and reduce the potential for identity theft by replacing a beneficiary’s Social Security number with a new, secure number. Here’s a picture of what the new card will look like.

picture of new Medicare card

These cards are issued by mail and they are free. You don’t need to do anything as long as your address is up to date. You can sign up at Medicare.gov to get an alert when your new card is in the mail. If you need to update your mailing address, visit your My Social Security account.

Of course, scammers are jumping into action to try to sow confusion and get between you and your new card. Medicare issues these tips to avoid scams:

  • Medicare will never call you uninvited and ask you to give us personal or private information to get your new Medicare Number and card.
  • Scam artists may try to get personal information (like your current Medicare Number) by contacting you about your new card.
  • If someone asks you for your information, for money, or threatens to cancel your health benefits if you don’t share your personal information, hang up and call us at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).
  • Only give personal information like your Medicare Number to doctors, insurers acting on your behalf, or trusted people in the community who work with Medicare like your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).

Do you need smartphone insurance?


cracked smartphone screen

Smartphones are more and more essential to daily life, but as the features and technology improve, the costs continue rising. While there are some decent bargain phones for under $300 on the market, so-called flagship models range from $800 to $1000 – and even more with some add-ons and options. When you buy a pricey new phone or replace an old one, one of the first questions you’ll be asked is if you want a coverage plan. It pays to research these things in advance and to understand the pros and cons so you don’t wind up making a quick decision on the spot. You want to weigh the cost of your phone and potential repairs against the cost of coverage. That entails checking with your insurance agent to see what coverage you have on existing policies and what the limits are. Once you know that, research coverage available from the phone manufacturer and your phone provider.

Does your homeowners insurance cover a smart phone?

One question that many people have is “doesn’t my homeowners policy already cover me if my phone is stolen or damaged?” That depends. If your phone is stolen or if it destroyed by a fire or some other covered peril, your homeowners or renters policy would generally cover that – check with your insurance agent to be sure. If it isn’t covered on your existing policy, you could probably have the phone and any other electronics added to your coverage for a small fee. Of course, any claim would be subject to a deductible.

Learn what the coverage limits are. Most homeowners or renters policies will not cover mishaps like screen breaks, technology failures or lost phones. If you feel you need coverage for those types of problems, there are plans available from phone manufacturers and providers so check in advance to see what coverage plans they offer, what they cover and what the cost is.

Here’s a handy article that offers some guidance to help you think things through: Consumer Reports: is insurance for your smartphone a smart idea?

A Consumer Reports survey found that over the last two years, half those who were surveyed reported a major incident with a phone in their household. The incidence rose to 81% if there were kids in the house. Cracked screens are the most common problem reported. The article notes that repairs for a cracked screen can range from $145 on an Apple iPhone 8 to $277 on a Samsung Galaxy S8+. AppleCare+ currently costs $129 for a 2-year plan; Samsung Premium Care is $11.99 a month. Other phone models can have different pricing.  Many describe the manufacturers’ plans as more extended warranties than insurance. Major phone service providers also offer plans that offer various coverage options. Some plans include repairs, loss and theft. With any plan, find out about what the plans do and don’t cover, what the deductibles are for any claims and what the coverage limits are.

So should you get a smartphone insurance plan?

First, check with your agent to learn what insurance coverage, if any, you already have. Learn the limits to your coverage, such as repairs or screen breaks. Then, weigh the cost of your phone and the cost or repairs/replacement with any available plans. You might want to factor in your past experience with phones. Have you had expensive repairs or frequent screen breaks with prior phones? Consumer Reports offers this rule of thumb: if you feel like within a two year period you’re likely to have two or more incidents occur to your phone, you may want to get a coverage plan.

32 ways to explore New England this summer


children looking through nautical glasses

How many ways are there to enjoy New England in the summer? Thousands! From beaches and festivals to museums and parades, there’s absolutely no shortage of places to see and activities to participate in.  We’ve compiled a list of 32 of the best ideas and guides to ensure you don’t miss a thing.

AAA offers many great ideas for exploring New England:

Yankee Magazine and its sister site New England Today consistently offer great ideas for seasonal activities.

Visit New England is a state-by-state guide encompassing places to visit, things to see and do and a calendar of events:

Discover New England is another popular travel guide that offers state-by-state ideas for events, activities, and places to visit.

Here’s a list of some other good guides from various sources:

 

 

How to ensure a safe boating season!


boating safety graphic

 

As we head into prime boating season, The National Safe Boating Council’s Wear It campaign offers some important safety messages. Check out these stats from the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2016 Recreational Boating Statistics, the most recent report. The stats are a compilation of data from 50 states.

  • 83% of boat drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket
  • 77% of deaths occurred on boats where the operator had no boating safety instruction
  • 15% of the deaths involved alcohol as the leading factor
  • Two-thirds of drowning victims are good swimmers
  • 4,463 boating accidents occurred, up 7.3% from the prior year
  • 701 deaths occurred, up 12% from prior year
  • 2,903 injuries, 11.1% increase
  • $49 million dollars of property damage

One of the primary safety messages is Wear It: no matter what type of boating activity to you are involved in, wear a safety belt yourself and require all your passengers to wear one, too. It’s the single most effective safety measure you can take. For more on boating safety, download a copy of Boating Safety Tips from the National Safe Boating Council, which we’re reprinted below. We added some links to the tips, as well.

1. Wear a life jacket. No matter what activity you have planned on the water, always remember to wear a life jacket every time you are on the water. Accidents on the water can happen much too fast to reach and put on a stowed life jacket. Life jacket types, fit and care.

2. Make sure your life jacket is U.S. Coast Guard approved, appropriate for your water activity and fits properly. A life jacket that is too large or too small can cause different situational problems. How to choose the right life jacket (PDF).

3. Know state boating laws. Rules and laws can differ from state to state and violations can result in ticketing, fines or jail time. State Boating Laws.

4. Take a boating safety course. Learn valuable tips that can help save your life in unexpected situations by taking a NASBLA (National Association of Boating Law Administrators) approved boating safety course. Many courses are online, and will save you money on your boat insurance. US Coast Guard – Boating Safety Courses.

5. Make sure your boat is prepared. There are many items that need to be check ed and rechecked on any boat. Schedule a Vessel Safety Check with your local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadrons before you hit the water. Every Vessel Safety Check is conducted 100 percent free of charge. U.S. Coast Guard’s Vessel Checks.

6. Be sure to know your boat’s capacity. If you have too much on your boat, the boat may become unstable and capsize.

7. Check the weather, including the water temperature. Know the latest marine weather forecast prior to going out, and keep a regular check for changing conditions. National Weather Service Marine Forecast.

8. Dress properly. Always dress for the weather, wearing layers if cooler weather, and bring an extra set of clothes in case you get wet.

9. Always file a float plan. File a float plan with someone you trust that includes details about the trip, boat, persons, towing or trailer vehicle, communication equipment and emergency contacts. Find out more and get resources at the Coast Guard’s Float Plan Central.

10. Always follow navigation rules. Know the “Rules of the Road” such as operator’s responsibility, maintaining a proper lookout, safe speed, crossing, meeting head-on and overtaking situations. Know what’s going on around you at all times, and always travel at safe speeds for the environment. Find out more about navigation rules at Boat on Course from the National Safe Boating Council.

11. Don’t drink while you boat. Where the primary cause was known, alcohol was listed as the leading factor in 15 percent of deaths in 2016. Find out more at Operation Dry Water from the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators.

12. Beware of carbon monoxide poisoning. Gasoline-powered engines on boats, including onboard generators, produce carbon monoxide (CO), a colorless and odorless gas that can poison or kill someone who breathes too much of it. Be sure to install
and maintain a working CO detector, never block exhaust outlets, and always dock, beach or anchor at least 20 feet away from the nearest boat that is running a generator or engine. Learn more at Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning on Your Boat from the CDC.

13. Keep in touch. Communication devices can be the most important piece of emergency equipment on board a vessel, especially in case of emergency. Be sure to have at least two communication devices that work when wet, such as satellite phones, emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRB), VHF radios and personal locator beacons (PLB). Cell phones are not reliable in an emergency situation.

More boating safety resources