Most drivers in West Virginia are familiar with the point system, where drivers accumulate points for various traffic violations. If a person accumulates too many points within a specific time period, they could lose their license as a result of a temporary suspension. What people may not realize is that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) maintains a similar point system that they used to track the safety records of companies that work with commercial drivers. When an auto accident occurs in West Virginia that could be counted against a person’s commercial driver’s license, this would be considered a DOT-recordable accident.
DOT-Recordable Accident Criteria
The FMCSA is a division under the United States Department of Transportation (DOT). The FMCSA is tasked with regulating just about every aspect of the commercial truck driving process. This includes regulations imposed on both drivers and trucking companies.
Additionally, the FMCSA keeps track of any serious accident involving commercial motor vehicles such as large trucks and buses. Any crash that meets the FMCSA criteria to be recorded will be classified as a DOT-recordable accident. Because the vast majority of commercial vehicles that operate in West Virginia cross state lines, these drivers and companies are required to follow the guidelines set forth by the FMCSA.
Any accident involving a federally regulated commercial vehicle must meet the following criteria in order to be considered a DOT-recordable accident:
- There was a fatality as a result of the incident.
- There was a bodily injury in which a person received emergency medical care away from the scene.
- One or more of the vehicles involved had to be towed away from the crash.
When analyzing whether or not an accident will be DOT-recordable, federal regulations do not look at which party caused the incident or whether or not the crash could have been prevented.
How Does A DOT-Recordable Accident Get Reported?
Every DOT-recordable accident will have to be reported in what is called an “accident register.” This accident register must include all of the following information:
- The date the incident occurred
- The city and state where the incident occurred
- The name of the commercial motor vehicle driver
- The number of fatalities
- The number of injuries
- Whether the accident resulted in the release of hazardous material (this does not include fuel from the truck’s tank)
- Copies of every accident report completed for the case
The information gathered has to be maintained by the motor carrier involved in the accident for a minimum of three years and made available to any agent of the US DOT or the FMCSA as well as any state or local law enforcement agency or authorized third party. Additionally, federal regulations require that motor carriers assist with the investigation of these records.
What Happens After a Truck Company Reports an Accident to the DOT?
The information gathered after a DOT-recordable accident and maintained in the accident register is used to help determine whether or not a motor carrier is doing its part to ensure the continued safety of the roadways.
The FMCSA and DOT will use the number of DOT-recordable accidents that the motor carrier has been involved in and multiply that number by one million. They will then divide that number by the total number of miles the motor carrier has driven over the past 12 months. The final number will be the motor carrier’s safety rating.
The safety rating is one of six factors used by the FMCSA to determine the overall motor carrier’s Safety Fitness Determination (SFD). Any carrier that receives a rating of “unsatisfactory” could face serious penalties if they do not take corrective actions.
If you are in need of legal help after a car accident, it is best to contact an experienced Charleston car accident attorney.