Transport Insights

The Critical Role of Accident Investigations in the Trucking Industry

Date: 11/06/2023

Accidents in the trucking industry are not just fender benders. They often involve large, heavy vehicles that with cargo that can weigh 80,000 pounds or more. The consequences of a trucking accident can be devastating for motor carriers, resulting in significant property damage, injuries, and even the loss of life. This is why it is crucial to emphasize the importance of properly investigating accidents.

Accident investigations serve as essential tools for identifying the root causes of accidents. They help trucking companies and regulatory bodies to understand why accidents occur and develop strategies to prevent them in the future. By analyzing accidents, industry stakeholders can implement safety measures, improve training programs, and enhance driving behavior, all of which contribute to reducing accident rates.

With trucking accidents, determining liability is often a complex process. Proper investigations can establish who is at fault, whether it’s the truck driver, the trucking company, or the adverse party involved. Liability is crucial for insurance claims, legal proceedings, and ensuring that the responsible parties are held accountable for their actions.

If involved in an accident, the driver should immediately turn on the four-way hazards and place warning devices out as soon as possible. The driver should pull clear of the roadway if possible and check for injuries. At that time, the driver should contact law enforcement and the company advising of the accident.

If the accident is deemed serious, then a company representative should respond to the accident scene. An attorney or insurance adjuster should accompany the representative at the scene if possible. Serious accidents involve fatalities, amputations, individuals transported via Life Flight, or accidents that could attract media attention. The company representative should assess whether the driver should be post-accident drug and alcohol tested. Post accident testing must occur when there is a fatality, injury with a citation to the CMV driver, or a tow with a citation to the CMV driver.

Following a significant accident, evidence preservation becomes critical. The company must preserve driver, vehicle, and company records associated with the accident to avoid a spoilation charge. The driver’s hours-of-service logs, the full driver qualification file, and vehicle maintenance documents must be preserved.  In addition, the vehicle’s event data recorder and other telematics data must be downloaded and preserved.

Beyond the immediate costs of property damage and medical bills, there are indirect costs such as increased insurance premiums, legal fees, and potential damage to a company’s brand and reputation. Thorough investigations help in mitigating these costs by pinpointing areas for improvement and reducing the likelihood for future accidents.

The transportation industry is subject to numerous regulations aimed at ensuring safety on the road. Proper accident investigations can help companies maintain compliance with these regulations. Failing to investigate accidents adequately can lead to regulatory penalties and a tarnished reputation in the industry.

A commitment to thorough accident investigations reflects a strong safety culture. When drivers and employees see that their company takes safety seriously and strives to learn from accidents, it encourages a safer working environment, and this in turn, leads to fewer accidents and greater overall job satisfaction.

Accident investigations are not just reactive but proactive measure to improve safety, reduce costs, and ensure the accountability of all parties involved. By investing in safety training, the trucking industry can make significant strides toward a safer and more reliable transportation sector. 

Prepare your fleet managers to investigate vehicle accidents quickly and accurately to reduce your company’s risk and liability. Learn about J.J. Keller's Accident Investigation Procedures Training Service!