Strategies for Preserving Evidence after an Accident: Motor Carrier Records
This series will address the various types of documents, electronic, human, and physical evidence that can and often will exist after a motor vehicle accident (including accidents involving commercial motor vehicles) and what should be done to preserve the evidence for future litigation. Part 1 was an introduction to the subject and looked at preservation letters. Part 2 considered preserving physical and witness statements. This post, Part 3, will review all the many motor carrier records that must be maintained. Part 4 discusses the various types of electronic data that may be available for retention after an accident.
Motor Carrier Records
Motor carriers are required to maintain a multitude of documents, pursuant to the FMCSR, which have been adopted by the State of Alabama. Most of these motor carrier records are unrelated to motor vehicle accidents, but can sometimes bear on peripheral issues and potential related claims that could arise from an accident. Below is a list of some of the documents that should be maintained by motor carriers, and of which all parties to a suit involving a commercial vehicle should be aware:
- Driver’s logsheets or timesheets, or any other report reflecting hours of duty status. Records of duty status are only required to be kept for a period of six months.
- Pre-trip inspection reports. Drivers are required to conduct pre-trip inspection of their vehicles and should document any problems with the vehicle. Among the items on the vehicle that should be inspected are brake lines and brakes, tires, and all the operating lights on the vehicle.
- Vehicle maintenance and repair records, including scheduled periodic maintenance, invoices, and annual DOT inspection reports.
- Lease or rental agreements for the tractor, trailer, or any equipment used on the tractor or trailer.
- Trip-related documents, such as bills of lading, weigh tickets, fuel receipts, and any other trip packet or trip expense materials, including but not limited to border crossing reports, customs declarations, International Registration Program documents, International Fuel Tax Agreement documents, over/short & damage reports, overweight/oversize reports and citations, out-of-service reports and orders, state entry and departure records, ports of entry receipts, weight/scale reports, cash advance receipts, credit card and debit card receipts and statements, expense vouchers, fuel billing statements, equipment purchase receipts, lodging receipts, expense sheets, toll receipts, weight/scale receipt, food purchase receipts, Comcheck or other cash control service records, and oversize load permits.
- Any personnel, employee, or driver handbooks or manuals that are used by the motor carrier, including hiring policies and procedures for drivers.
- Driver’s employee personnel and/or driver qualification file, including but not limited to: written application for employment; certification of medical examination card(s); driver violations statements for each 12-month period of employment; driver’s road test; driver’s written test; road and written test certification issued by other organizations; past employment inquiries sent to former employers and their responses; inquiries and answers on driver’s license records of violations and accident reports directed to and received from any state agencies; copy of commercial driver’s license(s); hiring, retention, admonishment, termination, or warning notices and other disciplinary type documents; prior industrial, vehicular, cargo, or other types of accidents or losses, including any reports of cargo, loss of shortage of work, and related documents to each incident; customer, employee or any other individual complaints regarding the driver; any documents of a legal nature, exclusive of driving citations, such as court notices, garnishments, arrest records, probation records, bankruptcy records or any other legal document; and any other documents, regardless of origin or subject, maintained by the motor carrier in reference to the driver; reports reflecting audits of the driver’s log sheets; and attendance registers or sign-in sheets for safety meetings attended by the driver.
- Dispatch records, including driver call-in records.
- Driver’s drug and/or alcohol test results for the driver, whether performed as a pre-employment, random, for-cause, or post-accident drug screening, for the entire course of the driver’s employment with the motor carrier.
- Documents generated pursuant to a preventability study or any company investigation of the accident.
- Documents or reports resulting from any audits performed by a local, state, or federal agency, within a period of three years prior to the accident.
This is not an exhaustive list of all the motor carrier records that must be maintained, but it does address those that are most commonly requested and at issue. You can follow the links within the post for additional, more thorough posts discussing those particular motor carrier records and how they can affect lawsuits that may arise out of a motor vehicle accident.
 The State of Alabama adopted and demanded compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations in Alabama Code (1975) § 32-9A-2, which reads in part, “[N]o person may operate a commercial motor vehicle in this state, or fail to maintain required records or reports, in violation of the federal motor carrier safety regulations as prescribed by the U.S. Department of Transportation….” Ala. Code § 32-9A-2(a)(1).
 49 C.F.R. § 395.8.
 49 C.F.R. § 395.8(k).
 49 C.F.R. § 396.11.
 49 C.F.R. § 396.3(b).
 49 C.F.R. § 391.51.
 49 C.F.R. §§ 382.301, 382.303, 382.305, 382.307, 382.401.
Photo by Helen Taylor.