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Compliance MythBuster, Part 4 – Must Carriers Report Accidents?

By Dave Osiecki & Sean Garney of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting LLC & Regulatory Consultants to DriverReach – May 2021 

This is the fourth installment of DriverReach’s blog series aimed at accurately communicating driver and fleet-related requirements, typically governed by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) safety rules. The idea is to dispel some common industry myths or misconceptions.

The Compliance Myth: When a motor carrier is involved in a DOT recordable accident, it must report details of the accident to the FMCSA. Some take this myth further and say it must be reported to FMCSA within 24 hours. Both are false.

The Facts: FMCSA only requires certain crashes to be documented in an accident file, and produced to an FMCSA or State DOT investigator only if asked. This motor carrier accident file is often referred to as an accident “register” since that word is used in FMCSA’s regulation on this topic, found at 49 CFR Section 390.15. Accidents do not need to be reported by the motor carrier to FMCSA. 

For motor carrier recording purposes, accidents only need to be documented if they meet FMCSA’s definition of an accident:

“an occurrence involving a commercial motor vehicle operating on a highway in interstate or intrastate commerce which results in:

  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.”

Why Does The Reporting Myth Persist?  There may be two reasons for the longstanding ‘accident reporting’ myth. First, an accident meeting the definition above is supposed to be reported to FMCSA by a state or local law enforcement agency that may be called to the scene. So, there is a reporting obligation, but it is on state or local law enforcement and NOT on the motor carrier. Second, a very long time ago (before 1993!), FMCSA did require motor carriers to report accidents. That motor carrier reporting rule was removed in 1993 in favor of (1) the state or local law enforcement reporting mentioned immediately above, and (2) the requirement for motor carriers to “record” them in a file and produce the file upon request. 

Stay up to date on CDL trucking trends! Be sure to check out the DriverReach blog for other relevant articles and head over to our webinars page for an up-to-date list of upcoming events and on-demand recordings.

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