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Crashes, Accidents, Incidents and Woopsie-Daisies

Disputing that the accident occurred or should not be considered just because it is not on the MVR is kinda like pushing the button harder on the remote when the batteries are dead: it won’t do any good.

One of the more pertinent things a motor carrier considers when hiring a commercial driver is the applicant’s history of motor vehicle accidents/incidents. However, because the terms “accident” and “incident” are so broad, recruiters and drivers should use care when defining and using these terms.
The two main sources of accident/incident information are the state driving records (MVRs) and prior employers.

  • MVRs

The reality is that in some states accidents are not reported on MVRs. In other states the criteria for accidents to be reported depends on fault, dollar damage (regardless of fault) or if a citation was issued. Still another factor is whether the accident occurred within the state where the driver is licensed. While most states will report most accidents involving their licensed drivers that occurred within the state (that meet their criteria), interstate accident reporting is spotty at best. 

As a result of these shortcomings in accident/incident reporting by DMV’s, many employers have learned that they can find out about most accidents when they contact an applicant’s past employers.

  • Past Employers

Potential employers of drivers are required by federal law to ask past employers about certain accidents, and these past employers are required by federal law to provide the information. This accident information includes only “DOT Recordable” accidents occurring within the past three years. “DOT recordable” accidents are defined as:

“an occurrence involving a commercial motor vehicle operating on a highway in interstate or intrastate commerce which results in:

  • A fatality;
  • Bodily injury to a person who, as a result of the injury, immediately receives medical treatment away from the scene of the accident; or
  • One or more motor vehicles incurring disabling damage as a result of the accident, requiring the motor vehicle(s) to be transported away from the scene by a tow truck or other motor vehicle.

The term accident does not include:

  • An occurrence involving only boarding and alighting from a stationary motor vehicle; or
  • An occurrence involving only the loading or unloading of cargo.”

Please note: there is nothing here that says if the accident is not on the MVR it does not have to be reported. Any accident with these characteristics must be reported by the employer. Disputing that the accident occurred or should not be considered just because it is not on the MVR is kinda like pushing the button harder on the remote when the batteries are dead: it won’t do any good.
The following detail must be provided regarding a DOT recordable accident:

  • Date of accident.
  • City or town, or most near, where the accident occurred and the State where the accident occurred.
  • Driver Name.
  • Number of injuries.
  • Number of fatalities.
  • Whether hazardous materials, other than fuel spilled from the fuel tanks of motor vehicle involved in the accident, were released.

While motor carriers are required to share the past 3 years of DOT recordable accident information, they are allowed to share additional information about DOT accidents going back further than 3 years. They MAY also share information on “incidents” or events that do not rise to the level of a DOT accident.

The most common additional information regarding an accident/incident is whether the event was preventable or non-preventable. Other companies classify this as “at fault” or “not at fault.”

Given that an accident can greatly affect a driver’s ability to get or retain a job, drivers should know what is on their MVR and employment history. If an MVR shows an accident on your record that was not your fault, or there were special circumstances, get a copy of the accident report and make this information available to anyone reviewing your MVR.

If a past employer reports that you were involved in an “accident” with no details, make sure you have the details and provide them to a potential employer. Employers are seeking drivers and they will appreciate the detail.


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