What Car Accidents are Considered a DOT Recordable Accident?


What is a DOT recordable accident? What is considered a reportable injury according to DOT rules? 

There are many forms, regulations, and rules for a CDL driver after they’ve been in a “reportable” accident. We’ll cover what counts as a DOT reportable accident, what information you must include in your report, and more. 

In order to protect yourself you will want to learn more about DOT recordable accidents. Important takeaways about DOT recordable accidents include:

  • CDL drivers must hold onto DOT accident records for 3 years preceding the accident
  • Accidents that involve a fatality, required one or more vehicles to be towed, or where there was an injury all must be recorded by DOT
  • You can dispute a CDL license suspension

The Department of Transportation 

The Department of Transportation (also known as DOT) serves the U.S. and exists to enhance the safety and efficiency of roads around the country. Individual traffic violations come with penalties, but most states (including Arizona) have a point system to track problematic drivers. If you violate a law while on the road, for instance, you’ll get points on your record for it. If you get a certain number of points on your record, you might suffer consequences such as a suspended license. 

The FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has a similar system in place for tracking the safety records of commercial drivers, also known as motor carriers. This system is used to ensure that the CDL drivers on the road are fit to be fulfilling their duties.

The Safety Fitness Determination

Since most commercial drivers operate both within Arizona and in other states while they work, the federal government has jurisdiction when it comes to this tracking system. FMCSA officials use various rating factors to determine each motor carrier’s SFD (Safety Fitness Determination), including hours-of-service compliance, impaired vehicle violations, and DOT recordable accidents.

A Closer Look at DOT Recordable Events

Although every accident can have an impact on your personal life conditions, DOT recordable accidents can also impact your professional life. Carriers must record and hold onto records of a wreck for the 3-year period preceding the incident. This includes accident reports, the accident register, and any other documents that the state of Arizona or other government bodies require. 

Which Accidents Count as DOT Recordable?

Whether you’re at fault or not, you have to report DOT recordable incidents. The following incidents are DOT recordable:

  • Accidents that involve a fatality
  • Accidents that require one or more vehicles to be towed away due to damage from the wreck
  • Accidents that involve physical injury and require immediate medical attention away from the crash scene

The Department of Transportation uses data from your previous three years of driving to determine how many accidents have occurred per million miles driven. You’ll be rated based on this and might face extra scrutiny and consequences if you surpass a certain level.

What Information do You Need to Include?

When you report a DOT recordable accident, you must include the following information:

  • Your name (as the driver)
  • The date of the accident
  • The number of fatalities and injuries
  • The city (or closest city) where the event happened
  • Whether the crash involved a hazardous material leak
  • All required accident reports detailing the event

You must make this information available to an authorized enforcement agency worker, FMCSA agent, or legally authorized third-party entity. The rules require you, as the carrier, to assist with investigation of your records, if necessary. 

How is DOT Recordable Accident Info Used?

The Department of Transportation determines your accident frequency by assigning a number to your safety rating, which is used in the event of an audit. The DOT determines this number by multiplying your DOT reportable incidents by a million and dividing that amount by miles you’ve driven over the past year. If you have a rate that’s higher than 1.5 DOT recordable accidents per million driven miles, you’ll get points added to your safety rating and an “unsatisfactory” label for your SFD.

If you’ve only had a single DOT recordable accident within the past 12 months, you don’t qualify for this calculation because of the small number.

What Happens to Carriers with an “Unsatisfactory” SFD?

Drivers with an overall “unsatisfactory” Safety Fitness Determination will receive restrictions and sanctions as a result of their record. These consequences may include being barred from transporting over 15 passengers or hazardous materials on the road. You may receive notice of a “conditional” pending safety rating, and you have 45 days to make corrective steps before this rating becomes official.

What if You Have Disputes?

If you have any procedural or factual disputes regarding how your safety rating was calculated, you may petition to have them reviewed. Make sure to ask your company or the Department of Transportation for more information on this process. 

Post-Accident Alcohol and Drug Testing

Keep in mind that, in most cases, you’ll have to submit a drug and alcohol test following a DOT recordable accident. If your accident involved a fatality, you (as the carrier) received a citation, the accident required at least one of the vehicles to be towed due to damage from the event, or someone involved in the wreck sustained a bodily injury, you’ll have to submit a test.  

Alcohol Testing

You must complete alcohol testing within two hours of your DOT recordable accident. If this isn’t possible, you must take a test within eight hours. If you cannot submit a test within these amounts of time, document the reason why.

Drug Testing

You must complete a drug test within 32 hours of the DOT recordable accident. As with the alcohol testing, you must document why you couldn’t complete the test, if you are unable to.

Speak with a Lawyer for Help with DOT Recordable Events

Failing to complete and file the necessary forms after a DOT recordable accident may lead to a CDL license suspension. This is why it’s so important for companies and drivers to know about reporting rules on this topic. Even after reading about the rules, you may still have some unanswered questions or need some help. 

With your future at stake, it’s crucial to make sure you follow the law on DOT recordable accidents. If you have any concerns related to a particular accident, you should speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.

Call our Personal Injury team at (480) 467-4392 to discuss your case today.

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