Crunch Time: Accident Documentation

Low bridge accident

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation 49 Part 390.15 requires that all motor carriers maintain an accident register and accident files (copies of the crash reports) on all “DOT reportable” accidents, for a period of three years from the date of each accident.

An “accident” is defined in Part 390.5 as:

1. A fatality;
2. Bodily injury to a person who, as a result of the
injury, immediately receives medical treatment
away from the scene of the accident; or
3. One or more motor vehicles incurring *disabling
damage as a result of the accident, requiring the
motor vehicle(s) to be transported away from the
scene by a tow truck or other motor vehicle.

* Damage to a motor vehicle which prohibits the vehicle from leaving the scene in its usual manner during daylight hours after simple repairs; or
Damage to a motor vehicle that could have been driven, but would have been further damaged if driven

The term “accident” for DOT purposes does not include:
1. An occurrence involving only boarding and alighting from a stationary motor vehicle; or
2. An occurrence involving only the loading or unloading of cargo.

Required information on the register:
Date of accident
City or town, or most near, where the accident occurred and the 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 motor vehicle involved in the accident were released.

Best Practices Tip

I recommended that motor carriers maintain two accident registers (for the calendar year):

1. a DOT recordable accidents only register;
2. a Non-DOT recordable accidents register.

This will limit information in an audit situation, yet still provide the big picture to effectively analyze all incidents and accidents.

Accident registers may be kept electronically— if you can print a hard copy for the FMCSA upon request.

Click here for sample Accident Register in .pdf format.


Q. We are a small operation and, knock on wood, have never had an accident. Do we need an accident register?

A. Yes. If you have not had a reportable accident, then create the accident register form and write “None” on the form.



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