April 27, 2018
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‘American Loggers’ now insurers

Greg Charette of Millinocket , a truck driver and equipment operator for Pelletier Inc., walks back to his truck after confering with fellow crew member Reed Dionne who was operating an excavator (in background) Tuesday morning to upgrade a ditch along New Jersey Street leading to Jerry Pond. Their employer, Pelletier Inc., recent star of the Discovery Channel's "American Loggers," is donating their services to clear land as part of a community effort to revitalize the Jerry Pond area as a town playground. (Bangor Daily News/John Clarke Russ) (WEB EDITION PHOTO)
By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff

The stars of TV’s “American Loggers” and a statewide insurance agency headquartered in Bangor are launching a nationwide insurance agency to serve truckers and forest products industry workers.

Policies of the American Loggers Insurance Co. are already being offered through the Varney Agency’s Bangor office on Oak Street, said Tim Varney, president and a co-owner of Varney, and within 60 days the new agency will open an office in Millinocket.

“Several other agencies write forestry and trucking insurance, but what will make us unique is that we can go into forestry accounts and use proven, cost-effective safety programs that the Pelletiers use that have made a huge difference in reducing claims,” Varney said Wednesday. “Obviously, when you avoid claims, you save money.”

Varney has insured the Pelletier family’s group of companies, which includes Gerald Pelletier Inc., for many years, said Eldon Pelletier, one of the stars of the Discovery Channel program.

American Loggers Insurance Co. hopes to offer “an insurance rate that loggers can afford,” Pelletier said.

“The reason behind it also is that Tim Varney feels that there is a lot of stuff out in the field that people are not aware of that would prevent claims,” Pelletier said.

The Pelletier family’s goal is to provide its knowledge and experience with forestry and trucking safety methodology directly to clients, he said. Varney, which offers almost all forms of insurance through its 16 offices statewide, will contribute its expertise.

“There’s a huge gap between insurance companies, with all their statistics, and knowing what needs to be done to prevent claims,” Varney said, “and then going out and actually applying that knowledge with operators on the field.”

Patrick Strauch, executive director of the Maine Forest Products Council, and Brian Souers, owner of a Lincoln forest management and wood harvesting firm, said Varney and the Pelletiers would likely be a good fit.

“They certainly know what it means to operate safely and minimize risk. They have built a strong business and are good businessmen,” Strauch said of the Pelletiers. “There’s no doubt that they have good name recognition, too.”

Since “American Loggers” debuted on the Discovery Channel in February 2009, the reality TV program has used flashbacks and re-enactments to portray the personal and professional difficulties endured by the Pelletiers — a family of seven brothers and a host of grandchildren — as they struggle to keep their logging business going.

The show’s third season taping is under way.

Souers was surprised that the Pelletiers were expanding into the insurance business. He said his insurer, Acadia Insurance Co., has built an excellent reputation as a forest products and trucking insurance specialist. Acadia was founded in 1992 in response to the Maine workers’ compensation crisis, according to its Website, acadiainsurance.com.

That company offers a great deal of detailed expertise in safety, risk management and loss control, Souers said, although he didn’t know whether it employed people who had run their own logging and trucking companies.

An Acadia representative could not be reached after business hours Wednesday.

“They have done a fantastic job. I don’t know how anybody could do better than they have,” Souers, who owns Treeline, Inc., said of Acadia. “I have a lot of respect for the Pelletiers. Anything they do, they do a bang-up job on. I am sure they could be competitive.”

Since their show became popular, the Pelletiers have opened a restaurant, Pelletier Loggers Family Restaurant Bar and Grill, and a Laundromat in Millinocket. They also helped create the Katahdin region’s first truck and tractor pull track at Millinocket Municipal Airport.

The Pelletier family’s fame among loggers and truckers will likely help the new company grow nationally very quickly, Varney said.

With gentle irony, Souers said no one should be surprised if the Pelletiers have success as insurers.

“One of the things they have done with the show is have a lot of accidents,” Souers said. “We’ve kept kidding that, hey, if we rolled over as many trucks as they do on the show, we would be out of trucks.”

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