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Post-Accident Procedures: What You Need to Know
Foley
6 mins read

Accidents.

No matter what type of business you operate, this is the last situation you want your company involved in. In addition to any injury or trauma that occurs, a DOT-qualifying accident can create a red flag that leads the FMCSA to monitor the company or companies involved. It can also spur a full-blown compliance review audit.

An example of this was in the news recently, when a large New England carrier was shut down after inspections found numerous drug and alcohol testing violations.  These violations included a failure to conduct post-accident drug and alcohol tests on its drivers.

The shutdown brought the 330-truck operation to a halt for over a week, after which time it was allowed to resume operations on a conditional basis.  At least in the short term, this means the company will be held to stricter safety requirements and closer monitoring by the FMCSA.

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Unfortunately, there is no way to make sure an accident never occurs. This makes it crucial that all DOT-regulated business owners and/or safety managers are well versed in the regulations regarding the procedures that must take place.

What Does the FMCSA Consider a “Qualifying” Accident?

The FMCSA has specific criteria regarding what constitutes a DOT-qualifying accident:

  • Any number of human fatalities;
  • Bodily injury to at least one individual that requires medical attention away from the scene;
  • At least one vehicle involved incurs disabling damage that requires a tow-away;
  • The accident must have occurred on a public road.

If any of the above criteria is met, the FMCSA requires that the Accident Register is retained for a minimum of three years.

When is Drug & Alcohol Testing Required?

Many employers feel they should get their driver tested after any accident. But unless they have a separate drug and alcohol testing policy that complies with the regulations in their state regarding non-federal testing, they are prohibited from testing drivers unless any of the following situations occurred:

  • Any number of human fatalities;
  • An injury to at least one individual that requires medical attention away from the scene AND the driver receives a citation for a moving violation;
  • At least one vehicle involved incurs disabling damage so that it cannot be driven from the scene AND the driver receives a citation for a moving violation. It’s also important to note that the accident must have occurred on a publicly accessible road.

It is important to note that aside from a fatality, drivers do not need to test unless it is determined that they were at fault for the accident.

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How Long Does a Driver Have to Complete Post-Accident Testing?

The FMCSA requires that testing must be completed within specific timeframes. This means that drivers are to remain available for testing until it is determined whether or not they were at fault.

DOT breath alcohol tests are to be completed within two hours of the accident.

Often, that is not possible due to the driver being retained at the scene. Therefore, after two hours have passed, it is the employer’s responsibility to document why the test wasn’t completed. Documentation needs to continue at least every two hours until the driver has taken a DOT breath alcohol test. If after eight hours the driver is still unable to test, all efforts must cease.

DOT drug tests must take place within 32 hours.

As with breath alcohol tests, documentation must be regularly made regarding why a test may not have been completed. If after 32 hours the driver is still unable to test, all efforts must cease.

What if Officers on the Scene Administer a Breathalyzer or DUI Evaluation?

You would think that as an employer you would be able to use any tests an officer administers, but guess what? It is not that simple:

  • Due to HIPPA laws, most jurisdictions will not release any test or evaluation results done on-site to employers following an accident.
  • The FMCSA has specific requirements regarding drug & alcohol collection procedures. For example, following an accident a driver may be given a blood test to check for controlled substances and alcohol, but the FMCSA will only accept a urinalyses for drugs and a breathalyzer for alcohol. In addition, all DOT collection procedures must be adequately met. Although business owners do not need to know the exact details on collection procedures, it is their responsibility to make sure the collection site they use is DOT qualified.

Although a FMCSA audit can occur at any time, an accident can “red-flag” the FMCSA to check your company. If post-accident procedures are not carried out correctly, there may be substantial financial penalties assessed. Due to the seriousness and complexity of DOT post-accident regulations, many employers opt to hire a Third Party Administrator, such as Foley Carrier Services, to assist them with understanding and carrying out required activities.

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