What Is a DOT-Recordable Accident?

A DOT-recordable accident includes any truck accident that interstate motor carriers must report to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). U.S. regulations determine which accidents and carriers must report their accidents.

The regulations also determine how the carrier must report the accident and the possible consequences for failing to report an accident. Carriers can face civil penalties and even criminal penalties based on their safety record.

Here is some additional information about DOT-recordable accidents.

Carriers that Must Report Accidents

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) exists to provide a uniform set of trucking regulations. These regulations apply to all trucking and bus companies operating in interstate commerce.

Most large carriers transport passengers or cargo across state lines or on interstate freeways. These companies fall under the FMCSA’s jurisdiction.

The regulations apply specifically to any interstate carrier with:

  • Trucks heavier than 10,000 pounds
  • Buses that carry 8 or more passengers for a fee
  • Buses that carry 15 or more passengers regardless of fees
  • Trucks that carry hazardous materials

The regulations also exempt some carriers from reporting requirements, including:

  • School buses
  • Government-operated carriers
  • Hearses
  • Ambulances
  • Fire engines and rescue vehicles

Exempt vehicles do not need to comply with the accident reporting regulations. However, they still need to comply with state and federal safety regulations.

Recordable Accidents by Covered Carriers

Carriers covered by the reporting regulations must report any accident that resulted in:

  • A vehicle being towed from the scene
  • An injury that required medical treatment at the scene or immediately afterward
  • A death

Importantly, these requirements do not just cover the truck and truck driver. If the accident injures or kills a pedestrian, bicyclist, or motorist, the trucking company must report the accident to the DOT.

When the trucking company reports the accident, it must include:

  • Date
  • Location
  • Driver
  • Number of injuries
  • Number of fatalities
  • Hazardous materials spilled, except fuel from the vehicles’ fuel tanks

These accident reports go into the DOT’s database. The public can search accident reports filed by truck and bus operators during the most recent month at the DOT’s website. Members of the public can order older accident files directly from the FMCSA.

Penalties for Safety Reporting Violations

The FMCSA’s regulations permit civil penalties for failing to report a DOT-recordable accident. Civil penalties include fines of:

  • $1,307 per day for a late report, up to $13,072
  • $13,072 for falsifying a report
  • $15,876 for missing reports
  • $3,969 from each driver who misses or falsifies an accident report

The FMCSA prohibits trucking and bus companies from coercing drivers into hiding information about DOT-recordable accidents. The regulations do not specify a penalty, but rather say that the DOT can pursue penalties that depend on the gravity of the situation.

Penalties for Unsafe Operation

The FMCSA can use accident reports as a launching point for investigating a company’s safety record. If the FMCSA finds an operator’s record unsatisfactory, it can take temporary action to prevent an imminent hazard to safety. This “out of service order” suspends the trucking or bus company’s right to operate in interstate commerce. 

An out of service order can apply to a:

  • Driver
  • Piece of equipment, including a truck
  • Fleet of trucks

If the company violates the out-of-service order, the FMCSA can pursue civil penalties ranging from $1,900 to $19,000 per violation.

How This Affects You

The FMCSA uses reports to shut down dangerous operations. By requiring trucking companies to report accidents, the FMCSA hopes they will implement safety programs. When truck operators record too many accidents, the FMCSA uses the reports to investigate.

This improves your safety on the road. It also gives you insight into a trucking company’s history if you get injured in a trucking accident and file a lawsuit against it. A poor safety record can help you prove negligence by the trucking company to get compensation for your injuries.