Commercial or Business Auto

Commercial or business auto is a type of fleet insurance that provides financial protection to Harvard and its drivers while operating cars, trucks, buses, vans and other motor vehicles in the course of carrying out its business pursuits. Coverage under the University's Master Program extends to vehicles owned, leased or hired by Harvard, and, under certain conditions, employee-owned vehicles when used for business purposes. The program offers not only protection against legal liabilities arising out of vehicle operations, but also from physical damage losses to the University’s vehicles under prescribed circumstances.  Additionally, the program is structured to satisfy the financial responsibility laws (e.g. Uninsured, Underinsured or Unidentified Motorist coverages) in all jurisdictions where the vehicles are expected to be operated.

Policy Description:  The University's Master Commercial Auto Policy is structured as a combination of excess insurance layered over an internally-funded loss reserve.  Participating schools and departments are afforded expansive liability coverage that provides reimbursement, over a $0 deductible, for bodily injury or property damage liability claims in connection with the operation of University-owned and leased vehicles.  Additionally, qualified vehicles are covered for physical damage loss (collision and comprehensive type damages) above a $500 per claim deductible.

The University's policy for the use of any Harvard-owned or leased vehicle requires that:

  • Only registered vehicles owned or leased to the 'President and Fellows of Harvard College' AND specifically declared to the Risk Finance and Insurance department in advance are eligible;
  • Only persons duly authorized by their school or department head are permitted to operate a vehicle on behalf of the University;
  • Authorized drivers must be at least 21 years old;
  • All authorized drivers must possess valid and applicable licenses for the type of vehicle;
  • Vehicles cannot be used for personal business;
  • Transport of passengers, other than Harvard employees, students, faculty or official guests, is prohibited;
  • Vans outfitted to carry 15-passengers are not eligible for coverage under the program.

Rental Vehicles. Any vehicle rented from an outside party (e.g. Enterprise/National, Hertz, ZipCar, etc.) and used to conduct Harvard business must be arranged in accordance with the University Travel Policy on Ground Transportation, including long-term rentals. Rental vehicles are not eligible for coverage under the University’s self-insurance reserve against physical damage losses and are only covered for liability claims after the vendor provided $250,000 contractual indemnity. It is therefore incumbent on vehicle renters to ensure they arrange for adequate insurance coverage for rental vehicles, as any gap in coverage is the responsibility of and will be funded by their department. To aid renters with obtaining compliant insurance, Travel Services has pre-negotiated terms and conditions, including insurance terms, with several preferred rental car agencies, the details of which can be found here. Please refer to the insurance grid contained within the University's Travel Policy for detailed guidance on which insurance elections each renter should be making based on the renter’s employment status and rental car agency.

Failure to adhere to these policies could result in an uninsured loss and claim settlement expenses for which your department will be held responsible.

Personal Vehicles.  The University does not have a comprehensive policy for the use of personal vehicles for University business. Each department must formulate its own rules taking into account the needs, the alternatives, and the risks involved. The use of personal vehicles for University business is generally discouraged because:

  • At the time of an accident it can be difficult to determine whether the person was on personal business or University business;
  • If an accident occurred on University business the employee would still be required to submit the claim to their insurer for payment since their insurance is primary and the University's insurance would only be applicable if the employee's limits were eventually exhausted;
  • Employees are expected to carry minimum limits of liability insurance of $100,000/$300,000 and submit proof of this prior to using their personal vehicle for University business.

Additionally, the University's Master Commercial Auto Program does not provide coverage for certain losses to personal vehicles, particularly for matters such as:

  • Rental of another vehicle while the damaged vehicle is being fixed
  • Loss due to a collision with an uninsured driver
  • Theft, vandalism or glass losses
  • Theft of personal belongings from vehicle
  • Maintenance and repair costs

It is up to each department to discuss these risks with employees prior to authorizing personal vehicle use for University business.

Enrollment Procedure:  All University-owned and leased vehicles must be added to the Online master fleet list [] in order to be insured under the Program. Department heads are responsible for: 

  • Assuring any newly registered vehicles are added to the master list within 2 business days of the effective date on the certificate of registration;
  • Maintaining the accuracy of the vehicle listing for those under their authority;
  • Authorizing use of vehicles and communicating University policies and procedures to authorized employee drivers

To assure the master fleet list properly reflects all vehicles intended for coverage, we strongly encourage that department heads designate a fleet manager to serve as the primary contact for all auto related insurance duties. Upon request, Risk Financing & Insurance will grant assigned fleet managers proper site permissions so that they can verify and/or amend their fleet listing using the Online Risk Management Self-service Portal.

Claims Procedure: All crashes involving any University owned or leased motor vehicle, regardless of fault, should be reported to the Risk Financing & Insurance department as soon as possible. An Accident Report must be completed and submitted via the Online Risk Management Self-service Portal.  It is important to report any accident even if there appears to be no visible damage to the vehicles involved. Please contact the Manager of Claims and Loss Prevention at 617-496-8830 with any questions.