Trucking Record Retention Following an Accident
Every interstate motor carrier must keep certain records for specific periods of time.
Failure to comply with the federal regulations governing records retention following a truck accident may lead to sanctions during a lawsuit, including the court throwing out the trucking company’s responsive pleadings and forcing the trucking company to admit full responsibility for causing the underlying collision.
It is vitally important to your case that we review trucking company records to see if they comply with the applicable federal regulations.
Driver Qualification File
A trucking company must keep a driver’s complete qualification file for at least three years under 49 CFR 391.51(d). That allows the federal government to evaluate a trucking company’s safety procedures during an audit, but it also allows a new employer to obtain the qualification file from a prior employer or an attorney to obtain the qualification file during litigation.
This statute is one of many federal regulations that govern records retention.
Important Trucking Record: Driver Logs
Trucking companies maintain numerous types of records.
For example, a driver must maintain driver logs that show the driver’s whereabouts 24 hours a day (if that driver does not operate in a small local area). The trucking company must keep those logs for at least six (6) months pursuant to 49 CFR 395.8(k)(1).
Important Trucking Record: Drug and Alcohol Tests
A driver must complete drug and alcohol screening every year, at a minimum, or as often as a particular trucking company requires. The motor carrier must maintain all positive drug and alcohol screening results for at least five (5) years under 49 CFR 382.401(b)(1).
Additionally, each motor carrier must keep these relevant records for specific times: financial data and supporting documentation – 3 years; supporting data for periodic reports of accidents, inspections, tests, hours of service, repairs, etc. – 6 months; personnel records – 1 year; and data pertaining to personal injury or property damages – 3 years. [49 CFR 379, Appendix A.]
How Attorneys Use These Records After a Truck Accident
HS Lawyers know some or all of these documents are important in a personal injury case, and our lawyers know how to use them effectively to ensure our clients recover full and fair compensation.
In every trucking case, we draft and send a “spoliation letter” to the trucking company involved in the collision. That letter demands the trucking company keep more than 20 types of records unless or until they are produced during a lawsuit.
As mentioned above, the federal regulations only require a trucking company to keep the records for specific time frames, but an HS Law preservation of evidence letter makes sure all of those records remain available for use during depositions and at trial.
Significance of Trucking Records in a Lawsuit
Some or all of these records can be very important at trial.
For instance, if a motor carrier’s records show the truck driver habitually violated the federal motor carrier safety regulations hours of service requirements, that the driver failed one or more drug or alcohol tests, or that the driver consistently violated company policies and procedures, then a plaintiff could use that evidence to support a claim for punitive damages against the trucking company.
Punitive damages are damages designed to punish or deter bad behavior, and they are a separate form of damages tacked on to a general damages award for pain and suffering or a special damages award for past and future medical bills.
Ultimately, these records retention requirements are important in every claim for personal injuries arising out of a truck wreck.