Accidents & Risk

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[accordion title=”Regulations Simplified – Accidents & Risk”]

We are a free tool for motor carriers. The information provided does not cover the full regulatory requirements. To view the full regulation go to “Quick Links” at the bottom of this page.

Click a title below to see content.

[accordion-item title=”Who is Subject to This Regulation”]

49 CFR 390.15 requires all motor carriers and equipment providers that operate commercial motor vehicle track of all DOT recordable accidents.

When is a driver and vehicle subject to the regulation?

If your driver is operating a commercial vehicle that meets any of the following criteria, he/she is subject to the regulations regarding DOT recordable accidents.

  • Vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating higher than 26,000 lb for intrastate driving.
  • Interstate vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of 10,000 lb.
  • Passenger vehicles that are designed to transport more than 15 people (including the driver).
  • Vehicles operating under DOT hazardous materials regulations.


[accordion-item title=”DOT Recordable Accidents”]

How does a motor carrier determine if an accident is a DOT recordable?

If an accident meets any of the following criteria it should be put on the DOT accident register. All motor carriers that operate commercial motor vehicles are required to keep a DOT accident register.

  • A vehicle has been towed from the scene due to disabling damage.
  • A fatality has occurred.
  • A person has been taken from the scene to medical care other than first aid.

What is required to be on my DOT recordable accident register?

  • An accident register must include:
    • Date of accident
    • City, town, or most near and state where accident occurred
    • Driver name
    • Number of injuries
    • Number of fatalities
    • Whether hazardous material, other than fuel spilled from fuel takes
    • Acknowledgment that you collected all accident reports required by state or local government agencies or insurers

The accident registers and supporting documents (police reports) must be maintained by the motor carrier and must be available for any special agent, local law enforcement, or authorized representative. The motor carrier must give an authorized representative all reasonable assistance in the investigation of any accident, including providing a full, true, and correct response to any question of the inquiry.

Industry best practice is for motor carriers to track all accidents and create training and education programs to minimize accidents and incidents.  Fleet safety professionals understand if a driver is having small incidents they will have a large accident.

Download our document templates for DOT Accident Register and tracking of all accidents below.


[accordion-item title=”When an Accident Occurs”]

What steps should a driver take when in an accident?

  1. Turn on flashers
  2. Call 911
  3. Secure the scene
  4. Check for injuries
  5. Provide first aid if previous trained
  6. Call the company
  7. Collect information (name of other involved, take witness information, note roadway conditions and weather conditions)
  8. Take pictures of the scene and include:
    • License plates of all vehicle involved
    • Vehicle damage
    • The roadway
    • The scene (up close and far away)
    • Surrounding area
    • Never take pictures of the injured
    • Cooperate with law enforcement
    • Be a professional at the scene
    • Never admit fault
  9. Drivers are prohibited by the federal regulations to drink alcohol eight (8) hours after an accident
  10. Check with there company to see if a post accident drug and alcohol test is required. See above “When does a CDL driver do a post-accident drug and alcohol test required?

What documents should a motor carrier retain if their driver is in an accident?

When an accident occurs the motor carrier should create an accident file.  The file should include the following information.

A motor carriers should start by preserving historical information for potential litigation.  Carriers are commonly sued and nuclear verdicts (meaning huge cash verdict) are being issued by juries every day.  In addition, motor carriers can be subject to steep fines if a court rules that evidence is initially deleted or destroyed. Carriers should have an internal document preservation policy and start the retention of documents and technology records immediately after the accident.  Litigation can take years and motor carriers need to assure that information is not accidently lost or deleted.  The following is a list of documents and electronic information that should be saved after an accident.  Carriers should consult legal advice for time frames on how far to go back on the data.

  • A copy of the driver qualification and personnel file.
  • Drug and alcohol testing history (including the post accident test).
  • Electronic data (onboard cameras, electronic logging device, breadcrumb data from ELD).
  • Corrective action history if any exists
  • All accident information collected at scene.
  • Maintenance history on truck and trailer that were involved in the accident.
  • Dispatch and bills of lading information for load the driver was on and the previous days loads.
  • Training records.


[accordion-item title=”DOT Post Accident Drug & Alcohol Testing”]

Not all DOT recordable accidents required post drug and alcohol testing.

See CFR 49 part 382.303.

Post-accident testing is required if:

A moving violation (citation) was given to your company’s CDL driver within 8 hours AND

Someone was taken from the scene for immediate medical attention, (beyond first aid)


If a moving violation (citation) was given to your company’s CDL driver  with 8 hours AND

One of the vehicles involved had disabling damage and was towed from the scene


A fatality occurs

Testing must occur within:

  • Eight (8) hours for the alcohol test. If the alcohol test is not completed within the first 2 hours the motor carrier must document why it has not been completed and continue to document every two hours thereafter. Attempts to test must cease after 8 hours.
  • Thirty-two (32) hours to complete the drug test. Attempts to test must cease at 32 hours. Document ever two hours why testing was not completed. Attempts to test must cease after 32 hours.

The documentation of test not completed will be requested at the time of audit/compliance review. Make sure you track the date and the time as well as the reason the test was not conducted.


[accordion-item title=”Risk Management”]

Risk management  is defined as the process of identifying, assessing and controlling threats to an organization’s capital and earnings. These threats, or risks, could stem from a wide variety of sources, including financial uncertainty, legal liabilities, strategic management errors, accidents and natural disasters. In the transportation industry our largest risk factor is accidents.

How does a company manage risk?

Managing risk is not as complicated as it can sound. It is all about consistency and completing a cycle of management.

Step 1

Identify the risk. What is the root cause?

Step 2

Implement a plan of action to eliminate the root cause and/or try to mitigate it.

Step 3

Assess if your plan is working? Create KPI’s, key performance indicators around the plan to assess success and set goals.

Step 4

Monitor your KPI’s. Review the goals and KPI’s you may need to make adjustments in your plan if your are not seeing the success you expected.

Step 5

When KPI’s show your are hitting your goals, share the success with your team. The most common rewards are driver and branch safety rewards. Thank your whole team for success!

Back to step 1

Start all over again with your next root cause, but don’t forget to keep measuring your previously implemented plan to monitor for continued success.


[accordion-item title=”Trucking Insurance”]

How do I control my insurance rates?

The less losses you have the better insurance rates you will receive. In the beginning you will pay high rates because you are not established yet. Work with your drivers to make safety a priority. Your insurance rates can improve if you control cargo losses and accidents.  Your CSA numbers and your safety rating part in this as well.

  • Track your losses regulatory and evaluate them. Implement programs or eliminate issues that are causing high losses
  • Watch your roadside inspections. What is happening at the scale is a reflection of your hiring practices and safety management
  • Hire quality drivers
  • Absorb some of your own losses instead of submitting to the insurance company (some insurance companies require you to submit all losses, however, it will impact your rates.)
  • Pass your safety reviews. If you are trying to get Great West Casualty insurance, they are going to have you go through a safety review.  This is becoming standard operating procedure for many insurance companies. Be prepared.

At insurance renewal time (annually) make sure you know what is driving your rates (good or bad). Your insurance rates are primarily determined by what insurance companies call loss runs. Every year your insurance provider will look at your loss runs and make renewal decisions on how much they have paid out and determine if they need to increase rates, stay the same, or drop you at renewal.

If your insurance providers say they can’t renew, don’t panic another company can more than likely pick you up. Their are also plans for trucking companies that cannot get traditionally insured but they are very expensive.

Insurance is a very competitive marketplace so be sure to shop around and get at least three (3) quotes in when you start your trucking company and each year at renewal time. Do not wait until the last minute to start insurance shopping at renewal, give yourself at least six weeks.

[accordion-item title=”Recordkeeping Requirements”]

Fleets are required to keep the accident on the accident register for three (3) years past the date of the accident.

[accordion-item title=”Tips from Industry and Safety Professionals”]

Tips from safety and risk professionals.

  • Motor carriers are not required to post accident drug and alcohol test for all DOT recordable accidents. However, fleets can post-accident test under a drug and alcohol-free workplace policy.
  • Dispute accidents that are not on your accident register that show up under crashes on your companies CSA score under Crash Indicator.
  • Keep documentation of any post-accident training your company does with drivers. It should be retained and will be useful in litigation.
  • Watch for accident and incident trends to you can train and educate your commercial drivers.
  • During the first two years of a driver’s career and the last five years of a drivers career is when they are at the most risk for accidents.
  • Utilize electronic logging devices to monitor safety and driver behavior of your drivers.
  • Offer safety rewards programs and financial incentives for driver with safe driving habits.


[accordion-item title=”Quick Links”]

Regulation DOT Recordable Accident  – 49 CFR part 390.15


[accordion-item title=”Documents & Templates”]


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DOT Accident Register



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Distracted Driving Policy



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