According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA’s) Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS) crash statistics, there were over 12,000 crashes in 2020 that involved large trucks and busses. The year 2021 is on pace to eclipse that total with 5,947 crashes reported through May 31, 2021.
One of the most important components to any successful motor carrier operation is having a good accident prevention program. Equally as important is to have a good post-accident management program. As a safety professional or a driver, it’s important to know the proper steps to take in the event you or one of your company-owned vehicles is involved in an accident. If the vehicle involved is a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), the regulatory requirements can be tricky to navigate.
Knowing what actions to take immediately following a vehicle accident is one of the keys to minimizing your risk exposure and staying in compliance with the FMCSRs.
Stop at the Scene and Report the Crash
When you are involved in a vehicle accident, you must remain at the scene of the crash and report the accident. If you are injured or if there are injuries to other parties involved, call 911 immediately. Once you’re safe, and if possible, remove your vehicle from the roadway onto the shoulder of the road to get it out of the travel lanes. Then turn on your hazard flashers, put out reflective triangles or cones. This will give better visibility to other drivers that may be approaching the crash scene.
Once a law enforcement officer arrives, it’s important that you remain calm and follow their instructions. As the investigation continues, a well-equipped accident kit can help guide you through the process. A good accident kit will contain, at a minimum, step-by-step instructions to guide you through the reporting process, a camera, driver’s accident report, pen, witness statement forms and a post-accident drug and alcohol testing decision tree.
Exchange Information with Other Parties Involved
Document all identifying features of the other vehicle(s) involved. This documentation should include make, model, license plate, model year and color of the other vehicles as well as any other distinguishing features. If the crash involves other CMVs, it’s important to document any identifying markings on that CMV. These identifying markings could include:
- Company name
- Company logo
- DOT number
- Any other identifying markings
If the crash involves a tractor-trailer, it’s important to document identifying markings on both the tractor and the trailer. It is extremely important that you exchange proper information with the other party prior to leaving the scene of the crash. Once all parties have left the scene, it can be difficult to track them down if additional information is needed. Information exchanged with the other parties should include:
- Name, address, email address and phone number of other drivers involved
- Insurance company and policy number of other drivers involved
- Driver’s license number of other drivers involved
- Company name and contact information (if another CMV is involved)
- Name, address, email address and phone number of any witnesses
If any of the parties involved refuse to exchange information, do not become confrontational. Wait for a law enforcement officer to assist with the exchange of information.
Document the Crash
Scene Using a camera from your accident kit or your phone, document the crash scene with photos and/or video. Make sure you take photos of the entire scene from multiple angles. If possible, place an object in each photo to give a sense of scale to the photo. When taking photos of vehicles involved, be sure to get distant photos and closeup photos of damage. Take photos of all four sides of each vehicle involved, whether there was damage to that side or not. Take photos of damage to a vehicle’s interior to include shattered glass and any airbags that were deployed. Take photos of any property damage that occurred because of the crash. This could be damaged fences, buildings, power poles, traffic control devices or landscaping. Look for things that could have been a contributing factor to the crash, including damaged roadways, road construction, inoperative traffic control devices or debris in the roadway.