Every motor vehicle accident is unique. Some crashes involve distinct traffic laws and rules. 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) both track certain kinds of accidents. The DOT oversees the FMCSA.

For example, when a severe collision involves a large commercial truck, the related trucking company must report the accident to the appropriate authority. As a result, the trucking company may face consequences from the DOT.

Trucking businesses with several DOT-recordable accidents may have low safety ratings, less business, or higher insurance premiums.

Understanding DOT-Recordable Accidents

To comply with DOT regulations, all trucking businesses must keep records of collisions that occurred in the previous three years.

The DOT uses this information to ensure that the trucking industry is as safe as possible. Regulating companies with large numbers of DOT-recordable collisions may help to prevent other truck accidents.

Only certain kinds of accidents are DOT-recordable. Traffic collisions involving any of the following factors must be reported to the DOT:

  • Property damage severe enough to require a tow truck
  • Injuries necessitating immediate medical attention
  • Truck accidents leading to one or more fatality

Trucking companies are required to report these types of accidents to the DOT regardless of who is at fault for the crash. This requirement only applies to traffic collisions.

Trucking companies are not required to report workplace accidents that do not involve crashes. Also, not every type of truck must comply with these rules.

Trucks that are subject to DOT-recordable accident regulations include those that:

  • Weigh at least 26,000 pounds and participate in intrastate travel
  • Weigh at least 10,000 pounds and participate in interstate travel

Freight trucks are not the only vehicles subject to these regulations. Vehicles that carry more than fifteen passengers and trucks transporting hazardous materials must also report certain accidents to the DOT.

How to Report a Collision to the DOT

When a collision meets the criteria for a DOT-recordable accident, the relevant company must register the crash. For instance, the company is required to complete an accident report to submit to the DOT.

The accident report that the company compiles must include the following information:

  • The city where the accident took place
  • The date of the collision
  • The name of the employee/truck driver
  • The number and extent of injuries
  • The number of resulting fatalities
  • Whether the collision resulted in the release of hazardous materials

The submission should also include copies of any other accident reports. The FMCSA must have access to this information for all DOT-recordable accidents for the past three years.

What Happens After Reporting a DOT-Recordable Accident?

Commercial carrying companies are required to maintain records of their previous DOT-recordable accidents. The DOT uses the accident information to determine the number of crashes per 1,000,000 miles involving the company, driver, or vehicle.

If a certain company has had too many crashes in the previous three years, it may face certain consequences. The DOT finds the relevant rate by multiplying the number of collisions by 1,000,000. The DOT then divides that figure by the number of miles the company’s vehicles drove in the previous twelve months.

Other factors can influence the DOT’s decision regarding safety ratings, as well. These factors include drunk driving violations or other prior safety violations.

When a company has a safety rating of over 1.5 accidents per million miles traveled, it is labeled as “unsatisfactory.” Trucking companies with low safety ratings are usually prohibited from transporting hazardous materials or large numbers of passengers.

If a company disagrees with its assigned safety rating, it has the right to petition the DOT to change the rating. 

DOT-recordable collisions and safety ratings are highly relevant in Texas truck accident cases. Oftentimes, truck accident lawyers can use this information to seek damages for their clients.

For more information, call our law firm at (817) 420-7000 or visit our contact us page to send us an email.