Accident Reporting and Investigation

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations’ Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) requires motor carriers to make all records and information from accidents available to an authorized representative of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) when requested or as part of an inquiry.

Accident Definition and Register

An “accident” is defined as an occurrence involving a commercial motor vehicle operating on a public road in interstate or intrastate commerce which results in: (1) a fatality; (2) bodily injury to a person who, as a result of the injury, receives medical treatment away from the scene immediately after the accident; or (3) one or more motor vehicles incurring disabling damage as a result of the accident, requiring the motor vehicle to be transported away from the scene by a tow truck or other motor vehicle.

Accidents involving only boarding or alighting from a stationary motor vehicle or involving only the loading or unloading of cargo are not included in the definition.

Carriers are required to maintain an accident register for three years after the date of an accident. The register must include a list of each accident, and, at a minimum:

Date of accident

City or town and state where the accident occurred

Driver name

Number of injuries

Number of fatalities

Whether hazardous materials, other than fuel spilled from the fuel tanks of vehicles involved, were released

Copies of all accident reports required by state or other governmental entities or insurers

Required Post-Accident Alcohol and Drug Testing

If a driver is involved in an accident involving a fatality, the regulations state that the driver must be tested for both drugs and alcohol. Testing is also required if a driver receives a moving violation citation and, as a result of the accident, any person sustains bodily injury requiring immediate medical treatment away from the scene. Testing is also required when a moving violation citation is issued to the CMV driver and any vehicle is disabled to the point of not being able to leave the scene under its own power. If required, drug testing must occur within 32 hours and alcohol testing within 2 hours. The following table shows when a post-accident test is required.

Breath or blood tests meeting reporting requirements include any conducted by federal, state or local officials having independent authority to test. Tests must conform to the applicable federal, state or local alcohol testing requirements. The employer must obtain the results of the tests.

Driver Conduct and Reporting at the Scene of the Accident

The carrier should provide advance instruction on what to do immediately after an accident, so drivers will be able to comply with the reporting requirements. Regardless of who was at fault, both the driver and the company will have strikes against them simply by being involved in the accident.

The driver should take care of all injured persons. In addition, the driver should be courteous to those involved in the accident, to police and other authorities who arrive at the scene and to witnesses and bystanders.

The driver should protect him/herself and the company by gathering all possible information about the accident. The driver must transmit this information to the safety department of the carrier, through dispatch, as quickly as possible.

These following rules of conduct and instructions are aimed at helping your driver make the proper report and avoid further liability to the driver and the company. Be sure drivers follow these procedures:

Stop. Failure to stop at the scene of an accident is a criminal offense, subject to severe penalties of the law.

Protect the scene. Turn on four-way flashers and quickly set out red emergency reflectors, in accordance with DOT regulations (one warning device 100 feet in each direction from the scene and one near the scene. Set the signals further out, but not over 50 feet away, if the accident occurs near curves or hillcrests).

Assist any injured person. To prevent further injury, do not move anyone unless absolutely necessary. Keep any injured person warm and quiet while waiting for the arrival of an ambulance, doctor or other competent person to handle the injured person’s removal and treatment.

Notify the police. If the driver cannot get to a telephone nearby, he or she should write a brief note accurately describing the location and apparent seriousness of the accident and ask a reliable appearing motorist to take it to a phone and report it. Or, the driver should use other available communication options to pass the word along. Do not leave equipment and cargo unguarded, except in an extreme emergency!

If the driver is a victim of a hit-and-run or the other party refuses to remain at the scene or give information, notify the police of the accident and give them all the details available. This puts the report on the police log and protects the driver if the other party tries to make a claim later.

Contact the dispatcher or company. Contact the company safety officer or representative as soon as possible to report the accident.

Call us to report the accident. Reporting assistance is available 24 hours a day.

Fill out an accident report. Complete an accident/cargo damage report. Provide as much information as possible.

Important Tips for Drivers at the Scene of the Accident

Drivers who are seriously injured: If taken to a hospital, make sure someone notifies the company immediately about what happened and gives the location of the hospital and the time you left the scene.

All other drivers: When reporting an accident by telephone or messenger, be specific as to location, time, extent of injury and/or damage, condition of cargo and where you can be reached.

Be polite at the accident scene. Give your name, the company name and offer to show your license. Don't discuss the accident with anyone, except the police and representatives of your own company. Regardless of the circumstances, admit nothing, promise nothing and do not argue. Make out your report as outlined above. The preliminary report form is your worksheet for obtaining all the necessary information to call in to dispatch.

Get names, addresses and phone numbers of ALL witnesses. If witnesses refuse to give their names, note their vehicle license numbers. If there are no witnesses to the actual accident, get the name and contact information of the first person to arrive on the scene. If the other driver admits fault, ask him or her to complete and sign the exoneration card. However, the driver should not sign one himself. Utilizing your cellphone or digital camera, take pictures if safe to do so. Do not move any of the vehicles until you have taken pictures and someone has witnessed the position of vehicles, skid marks, lights, road signs, weather and road conditions.

Important Tips for Photos

Take photographs as soon as possible

Photograph all tire marks with the vehicles in the background

IMPORTANT: DO NOT photograph people who have been injured or killed in the accident

Photos should be provided to RSI Claims Department

Reporting Incidents Involving Hazardous Materials

There are special rules for recording and reporting accidents involving hazardous materials, substances or wastes. The rules are described in detail in the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) Part 171.15; 171.16.

Phone number where reporter can be contacted

Date, time and location of incident

The extent of injury, if any

Class or division, proper shipping name and quantity of hazardous materials involved, if such information is available

Type of incident, nature of hazardous material involvement and whether a continuing danger to life exists at the scene

A telephone report is required whenever any of the following occurs in the course of transportation (including loading, unloading and temporary storage):

As a direct result of a hazardous material: a person is killed; a person receives an injury requiring admittance to a hospital; the general public is evacuated for one hour or more; a major transportation artery or facility is closed or shut down for one hour or more; or the operational flight pattern or routine of an aircraft is altered

Fire, breakage, spillage or suspected radioactive contamination occurs involving a radioactive material

Fire, breakage, spillage or suspected contamination occurs involving an infectious substance other than a diagnostic specimen or regulated medical waste

A release of a marine pollutant occurs in a quantity exceeding 450 L (119 gallons) for a liquid or 400 kg (882 pounds) for a solid

A situation exists of such a nature (e.g. a continuing danger to life exists at the scene of the incident) that, in the judgment of the person in possession of the hazardous material, it should be reported to the NRC even though it does not meet the criteria of this section

Each person making a telephone report must also make a written report within 30 days of discovery of the incident, using DOT Form F. 5800.1, “Hazardous Materials Incident Report.” Note: Under 40 CFR 302.6, the EPA requires persons in charge of facilities (including transport vehicles, vessels and aircraft) to report any release of a hazardous substance in a quantity equal to or greater than its reportable quantity, as soon as that person has knowledge of the release, to DOT's National Response Center at (toll free) 800-424-8802 or (toll) 202-267-2675.

Accident Investigation

Because of the dangerous and highly regulated nature of the motor carrier industry, one of a carrier’s highest concerns is the safety of its employees, general public and the prevention of accidents. However, regardless of how good a carrier’s safety and accident prevention programs are, as long as there are cars, trucks and buses on the nation’s highways, accidents can happen.

When an accident does happen, it is in the motor carrier’s best interest (from a liability and best practice standpoint) to discover exactly what happened and why. This process of discovery is more commonly known as an accident investigation. Each motor carrier needs to have an effective accident investigation process as part of its comprehensive safety program. Generally, a thorough accident investigation will:

Determine how potentially severe the accident is (or will be)

Gather the relevant facts and circumstances surrounding the accident

Identify the root cause or causes of the accident

Implement the corrective action recommendations to prevent reoccurrence

Most commercial motor vehicle accidents result from a breakdown in the safety management controls (the company’s internal processes and procedures) of a carrier—such as using an unqualified or untrained driver or unsafe equipment. A good accident investigation process identifies and analyzes these breakdowns, then recommends corrective actions to prevent similar types of accidents from occurring.

Management should investigate every accident (beyond the initial investigation/report by the driver) in order to ensure compliance with FMCSA accident reporting requirements and to determine the cause so action can be taken to eliminate or control similar occurrences. Management should also attempt to determine whether or not the accident was preventable by the driver.

The fleet supervisor or safety manager should conduct the accident investigation. Sources of information will include the driver’s accident report, police reports, insurance claims reports, witness statements and photos of the scene. These may need to be supplemented by an on-the-scene investigation.

To permit proper analysis and corrective action, clear, concise and prompt investigation is critical. The investigator should determine as much of the following as possible:

Time. Date, day of week, hour (exact time of accident).

Location. Exact location (street address or measured distance from identifiable object).

Drivers. Names, addresses, operators’ license numbers.

Injured persons. Names, addresses, ages, sex, nature of injuries, relationship to accident (driver, passenger, passerby, etc).

Witnesses. Names, address, what they saw, relationship to accident.

Vehicles. Type, make, year model, license, ID number, description of damage, damage to cargo.

Type of accident. Head-on, rear-ended, skid, rollover, etc.

Objects involved. How involved, exact location, contribution to accident, exact description (color, size, shape, etc.).

Movement. Precise direction, speed and nature of movement at time of accident of all vehicles involved.

Driver’s condition. State of health, medication, time since last rest period, drugs or intoxication, training, experience, MVR.

Vehicle’s Condition. Brakes (test if possible), maintenance records, any component failure.

Weather. Exact weather conditions at time of accident. Check accident scene under similar conditions if possible.

Roadway. Did roadway contribute to accident? Photograph roadway and surroundings from viewpoint of all vehicles involved.

The trip. Retrace entire trip, all stops, time and activity at each stop. Review driver's log. Determine why trip and route were scheduled as they were. Did route or schedule contribute to the accident?

Accident diagram. Prepare exact diagram of the total accident scene. Show all measurements (roadway, shoulder, distance to fixed objects, skid marks for each wheel). Locate any item which might have had an effect (bushes, trees, rocks, culverts, spills, holes). All measurements should be made with a steel tape and verified by a witness.

Photographs. All physical conditions should be documented with photographs. See photo comments above.

Accident Analysis

Accident investigation reports, no matter how well done, have no value unless they are carefully analyzed to determine accident causation factors, and unless corrective action is taken to prevent recurrence. Tracking and analyzing accident data over time can provide useful information in identifying problems or revealing a need for changes in the safety program.”

Accident analysis is the process of studying individual factors for a group of accidents to identify trends or a commonality of factors related to causation. Fleet size and accident frequency will dictate how often accident analysis should be done. A 20-vehicle fleet with few accidents may not warrant more than one analysis per year. Larger fleets and more frequent accidents may require a monthly analysis.

Tools used in performing accident analysis can be as simple as an accident register, maintained in the form of an Excel spreadsheet database, to more sophisticated commercial software specifically designed for motor carrier accident tracking. While accident data provides a source of information to improve accident prevention efforts, it can also serve to provide a benchmark to compare your fleet’s accident experience with other trucking organizations and compare the relative success of your safety program to that of other motor carriers.

For more information: The content of this article has been taken in large part from information published by the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. For more information on a range of issues affecting motor carrier safety and security, including information on accident reporting, go to the FMCSA Web site:

At RSI, we want to help you protect the assets that contribute to the success and profitability of your trucking firm. Be diligent in your efforts to the practice of accident reporting and investigation. Your attention to promoting safety will help minimize losses and help to reduce your insurance costs.

Source: Sentry Insurance


Category: Accident

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