SUV limo crash raises safety concerns but industry members maintain they’re safe

By Ian Bickis


TORONTO _ A deadly crash involving a stretched limousine-style SUV in New York state over the weekend has put a spotlight on safety concerns around the modified vehicles, but industry players maintain they’re safe.

On Saturday the limousine, built from a 2001 Ford Excursion, ran a stop sign, crossed three lanes of traffic and hit a parked SUV before stopping in a wooded ditch. Two pedestrians and all 18 people in the limo celebrating a woman’s birthday died.

The cause of the crash is being investigated but New York officials have raised concerns about a failed inspection for the vehicle last month.

Potential riders should realize these stretched vehicles aren’t made by the major automotive companies, said Russ Rader, senior vice-president of communications at the Virginia-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

“These vehicles are engineered to carry a lot of people, but in cutting them up and stretching them, some of the crash worthiness and safety aspects of the vehicle are taken out.”

Side-impact protection, full side airbags, some rollover protection could be lost, while seating modifications could make seatbelts hard to access, said Rader.

“Once a vehicle is modified and stretched like this, it would not meet the same crash-worthiness standards as the stock vehicle.”

Manufacturers of the vehicles, however, say they stick with detailed specifications set out by the main automotive brands used in modifications including Ford Motor Co. and Cadillac.

“We just do it one way, the way Ford or GM tells us how to build the car,” said Leo Bodenstein, vice-president of the professional vehicles division at Inkas Armored & Professional Vehicle Manufacturing.

“When you convert a vehicle, you’re converting it to the equivalent of those specs. You can’t exceed them, you can’t go over those specs, you can’t go under those specs. You have to build it as set by the manufacturer.”

Auto rebuilders can apply to be certified as meeting quality standards and specifications that outline requirements such as brake strength, wheelbase length limits, use of fireproof materials, and emergency exits including pop-out windows and an escape hatch in the ceiling.

North York-based Inkas is a member of Ford Motor Co.’s Qualified Vehicle Modifier program and therefore sticks with the regulations, even though customers often ask for flexibility on things like an extra seat.

Bodenstein said there are still some auto shops that might do modifications outside of what’s recommended by manufacturers, but Inkas sees significant value in being recognized as a member of Ford’s program.

He said it looked like the Ford Excursion involved in the deadly crash in New York could be longer than 356 centimetres (140 inches), which exceeds the manufacturer’s specifications.

Ford said in a statement that it does not have any information about the vehicle involved in this accident, but is ready to co-operate with agencies that are investigating.

Hameed Khan at Rolling Luxury in Ottawa, which rents stretched SUVs, said he’s never had a customer ask about safety issues but they can see that the vehicle has been given an inspection on behalf of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

“When they see the vehicle they would also see the annual sticker, so if the vehicle has that, it means that it’s gone through a thorough inspection by the ministry, by someone licensed by the ministry.”

He said the company imports vehicles from the U.S., and that all imported vehicles have to be in auto manufacturer programs like Ford’s Qualified Vehicle Modifier program.

The City of Toronto also requires that all modified Cadillac and Ford products must be converted in accordance with the manufacturers’ certification programs, while other conversions need to be certified by Transport Canada’s National Safety Mark.

British Columbia introduced more stringent regulations for the industry in the province in 2015 and now requires each vehicle to be approved by the Passenger Transportation Board for a special licence and has imposed a more extensive application process and operator review.

Rader at the Insurance Institute said that overall, customers need to do some due diligence before getting into such vehicles including a look at how companies train and licenses drivers, that it’s transparent on how they’re inspected, as well as adhering to basic safety practices.

“Above all it’s important for people to recognize that just because you’re in a limousine out celebrating and having a good time, the laws of physics are always at work, and you’re not getting some magic force field protection. You have to wear your safety belt.”

Drivers pocket savings by allowing their insurer to come along for the ride

CALGARY — When his auto insurance company offered him the option to pay lower rates, Justin Lam leaped at the chance, even though it meant allowing his insurer to electronically tag along with him on every trip.

The 39 year-old from Toronto downloaded TD Insurance’s Myadvantage app on his cellphone and started receiving scores out of 100 based on how fast he was going, whether his turns were too sudden, how hard he was braking and even what time of day he tended to get behind the wheel.

“They said there was no downside. So even if you score terribly on the app, the worse you could do is pay the same rate, with no discount,” Lam said.

The payoff arrived last month with his insurance renewal notice. With an average score in his first year of about 85, he said he is saving around 20 per cent, dropping his $1,800 annual bill to less than $1,500.

If a person doesn’t mind the loss of privacy and their driving will stand up to intensive scrutiny, usage-based insurance may be right for them, experts say.

Driver monitoring programs are generally delivered in two ways, by a smartphone app that “sleeps” until it senses driving has started, or by a telematics device plugged into the car’s diagnostic port. Both use GPS and sensors to collect information and send it wirelessly to the insurer’s website.

Drivers usually receive an enrolment discount of five or 10 per cent and then can earn up to another 15 to 25 per cent discount that is applied when their insurance policy is renewed.

Users can go online to see how their driving stacks up and make corrections. For example, the TD Myadvantage app allows the policy holder to delete a trip if he or she was actually a passenger.

The TD program is offered only in Ontario and Quebec, said Francois Langevin, assistant vice-president of product innovation, but the company is looking to expand it into other provinces.

He estimated that about 40 per cent of new auto insurance clients sign up, adding that’s similar to the industry average for these programs in Canada.

“If you’re a driver who drives low kilometres, doesn’t speed, and doesn’t have jerky driving, that kind of thing, then you have a lower likelihood of making a claim so you get a discount based on that driving behaviour,” said Kaitlynn Furse, spokeswoman for CAA South Central Ontario, which offers a service called CAA Connect that uses a telematics device plugged into the car.

Auto insurance falls under provincial regulation and so the rules vary across Canada.

Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Alberta, for instance, allow some but not all forms of usage-based insurance programs.

The other provinces and territories are considering allowing the programs but haven’t done so yet.

Provincial regulation has fallen behind the pace of technology, preventing insurers and clients from being able to harness the full potential of such programs, said senior policy adviser Rana Shamoon at the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

Canadians have far fewer choices than in the United States, where 49 jurisdictions have 10 or more insurers offering user-based programs, she said.

Fear that their information may be misused to raise their premiums or provide evidence against them in the event of a claim has hampered enrolment growth in telematics programs, said Andrew Lo, CEO of Kanetix Ltd., a company that helps consumers compare insurance products and rates.

According to a recent Kanetix survey, only 27.7 per cent of respondents in Ontario said they are interested in allowing their insurer to monitor their driving in return for discounted rates.

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada has identified potential issues with transparency and use of telematics data about driving habits, said Anne-Marie Cenaiko, manager of public education and outreach.

Federal and provincial privacy laws generally require data only be collected with informed consent and be used or disclosed only for the purpose for which it was collected, she said.

Living up to the expectations of his monitoring app is difficult at times, Lam said — staying below the speed limit when all the traffic around is going faster can seem more hazardous than just keeping up.

He said he also found he was getting a few odd scores.

“It takes the app a while to realize you’ve stopped driving,” he said.

“One time, I dropped my phone on the ground as I was getting out of the car and I got a mark of, like, five for braking too hard.”

Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. Acquires Majority Interest In Hesse & Partner AG And Hesse Consulting GmbH

ROLLING MEADOWS, Ill., June 11, 2018 /CNW/ — Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. today announced that it has acquired a majority interest in Zurich, Switzerland-based Hesse & Partner AG and Hesse Consulting GmbH. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

J. Patrick “Pat” Gallagher, Jr. – Chairman, President and CEO of Gallagher, global insurance brokerage, risk management and consulting services firm (PRNewsfoto/Gallagher)

Founded in 1997, Hesse is a commercial property/casualty broker and consultant offering coverages and risk advisor services primarily to industrial, manufacturing and construction clients with a particular specialism in the waste-to-energy industry. Guido Hesse, Tanja Jung and their associates will continue to operate from their Zurich location under the direction of Vyvienne Wade, head of Gallagher’s overseas division.

“Hesse brings us an outstanding team of specialists in the growing waste-to-energy industry and positions us for further growth in the region,” said J. Patrick Gallagher, Jr., Chairman, President and CEO. “I am pleased to welcome Guido, Tanja and their associates to our growing Gallagher family of professionals.”

Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. (NYSE: AJG), a global insurance brokerage, risk management and consulting services firm, is headquartered in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. The company has operations in 34 countries and offers client service capabilities in more than 150 countries around the world through a network of correspondent brokers and consultants.

Hundreds of Fort McMurray insurance claims unresolved two years after wildfire

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. _ Deadlines have been extended for hundreds of insurance claims that remain unresolved more than two years after a wildfire dubbed “The Beast” tore through Fort McMurray and surrounding areas in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.

“This is unprecedented, not just for the people of Wood Buffalo, but for our industry,” Bill Adams, with the Insurance Bureau of Canada, said Wednesday.

“We’ve never dealt with an event nearly of this magnitude.”

The ferocious fire in May 2016 consumed 10 per cent of the buildings in the northeastern Alberta city and forced 88,000 people from their homes for at least a month.

With $3.7 billion in insured damage, the bureau has pegged the fire as the costliest disaster in Canadian history.

Legislation sets out a two-year limit for insurance claims to be resolved, meaning the deadline for affected Wood Buffalo residents passed earlier this month.

Normally, that would be more than enough time, Adams said. But insurers had to be flexible in fire’s aftermath.

“Individual insurers recognize that given the magnitude of the rebuilding, it’s just physically not possible for all claims to be resolved within a two-year period,” he said.

As of May 10, 97 per cent of residential claims had been resolved. Some 900 are outstanding, but 85 per cent of those have been granted extensions some by as much as a year.

The courts are another avenue for recourse, but Adams could not say how many people have had to resort to that option so far.

Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci said he was in Fort McMurray recently, where residents and the city’s mayor raised concerns about unsettled insurance claims.

“I heard loud and clear that our work in Wood Buffalo was not done,” he said.

Through the Superintendent of Insurance, the Alberta government urged insurers to allow more time for claims to be worked out.

“I’m pleased to report all insurance companies have answered our call,” Ceci said.

“I truly appreciate the commitment by insurance companies to extend the limitation period and I appreciate the support the insurance industry has provided to the people of Fort McMurray and Wood Buffalo since the very beginning.”

Mayor Don Scott, who represents the area, said in a statement that the extensions are a positive step for residents who are still slogging through their insurance claims.

“I encourage anyone with an outstanding insurance claim to contact their insurance company immediately to find out if they are willing to provide an extension, and if they experience any difficulty, they should contact Alberta’s Superintendent of Insurance,” he said. “I would also encourage them to contact a lawyer about filing a statement of claim to preserve their rights.”

Global Insurer Selects Symbility’s Platform for its Newest Insurance Brand

TORONTOFeb. 27, 2018 /CNW/ – Symbility Solutions (TSX.V: SY) (“Symbility”), a global software company focused on modernizing the insurance industry, is pleased to announce that a Fortune 500 worldwide property & casualty insurance and reinsurance holding company has selected Symbility’s claims management cloud platform for its newest high net worth personal lines insurance brand launched in the United States.


This new brand, offering specialty personal insurance coverages tailored to the needs of their affluent client base, will implement Symbility’s complete suite of cloud-based tools. This technology platform enables everyone involved in the claims process be integrated into one system, to provide a single, transparent and unique claims experience to their clientele. The platform includes Symbility’s Claims Connect®, a property and casualty claims workflow solution that will streamline the claims estimating process. Inside Staff will be able to take advantage of Symbility’s Desk Adjuster™, a guided experience to help ask policyholders the right questions to create a consistent, simplified, and optimized desk adjusting process. Adjusters and third-party contractors will use Symbility Mobile Claims®, the industry’s most intuitive mobile-enabled field estimating solution. Along with Mobile Claims, the Carrier will use Symbility’s Video Connect application, which enables adjusters a direct way to engage the policyholders to visually perform a complete, accurate and secure remote inspection of the damaged property using the camera on the policyholder’s mobile device.

“We know that this Carrier’s mission is to create personalized one-on-one relationships that best serve their policyholders, and trust that Symbility will help them achieve this goal,” said James Swayze, Chief Executive Officer of Symbility Solutions. “Our technology will enable them to always be in the know, ask the right questions, and process claims from start to finish in a manner that makes their policyholders feel like they are their only customer, which is the service every policyholder expects.”


Symbility (TSX.V: SY) believes in creating world-class experiences that simplify business and improve lives. With a history in modernizing insurance claims solutions for the property and health industries, Symbility has established itself as a partner that puts security, efficiency and customer experience first. Symbility PROPERTY™ brings smarter thinking to property insurance. Symbility HEALTH™ helps benefits professionals build their brands and businesses. Our strategic services team, Symbility INTERSECT™ empowers a variety of businesses with smarter mobile and IoT product development strategy, design thinking and engineering excellence. With our three segments pushing industries forward, Symbility proves that change for the better is entirely possible.

Neither TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in the policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.

All trade names are the property of their respective owners.

SOURCE Symbility Solutions Inc.

Shoppers Drug Mart signs marijuana supply deal with Aurora Cannabis

Licensed producer Aurora Cannabis has signed a deal to supply medical marijuana to Shoppers Drug Mart.

The agreement is subject to Health Canada’s approval of the pharmacy chain’s application to dispense medical cannabis.

Aurora’s products are expected to be sold online, as current Canadian regulations prohibit the sale of medical marijuana in pharmacy locations.

Shoppers Drug Mart’s deal with Aurora comes after it recently signed similar deals with licensed medical marijuana producers Aphria, MedReleaf and Tilray.

The pharmacy chain’s parent company Loblaw Companies Ltd. applied in October 2016 for a license to dispense medical marijuana.

Other pharmacies have also lined up similar supply agreements, such as deals between Maricann Group. and Lovell Drugs and CanniMed Therapeutics and PharmaChoice.


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