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.



Carriers Identified and Prioritized for CSA Interventions by BASIC


Will you “qualify” for a DOT Audit?

Here’s the scoop: a bad collision or crash can trigger a DOT Audit. But so can a series of crashes. How many? Says the DOT:

“These crash rates were calculated by the FMCSA on a national scale and do not indicate or predict a crash rate for an individual carrier. The crash rate is the number of crashes per 100 vehicles. The national average for all carriers is 3.43 crashes/ 100 vehicles.”


Carriers targeted for enforcement, due to their Vehicle Maintenance BASIC, the fourth bar in the graph, had a average of 5.65 crashes per 100 trucks and/or buses.

Crash Rates per BASIC:

  • Driver Fitness 3.11
  • HAZMAT 4.49
  • Drug/Alcohol 4.61
  • Maintenance 5.56
  • Hours of Service 6.26
  • Accidents 6.34
  • Unsafe Driving 6.61

If your BASIC is flagged and your company has had a higher than average crash rate, then expect some sort of response from the DOT, up to and including an audit. Audits may be unannounced.

Note: most fleets don’t have hundreds of vehicles. One or two crashes may be enough to trigger a DOT intervention for a smaller fleet.

Source: From The Carrier Safety Measurement System (CSMS)Effectiveness Test by Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) report, dated January 2014.