When are trucking companies allowed to destroy evidence of an accident?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) states that trucking companies may legally destroy evidence after keeping for a certain period of time. If you are involved in an accident with a commercial truck, this means you will have to act fast in order to make sure you can prove fault on the part of the trucking company.

How long do they have to keep records?

Trucking companies only have to keep certain records for six months. The following details how long trucking companies have to keep some of the most important accident evidence:

  • Driver’s hours of service: 6 months
  • Vehicle and cargo inspection records: 18 months
  • Qualifications of any driver: 3 months
  • The results of any alcohol or drug tests: 5 years for positive tests

Why Trucking Companies Destroy Records 

When it comes to destroying important records that pertain to their drivers or equipment, there is one major reason why trucking companies choose to go this route — it can prevent investigators from finding them liable for any accident their trucks or drivers are involved in. Below, we detail exactly why a trucking company would want to destroy certain records:

Hours of Service Records 

Hours of service regulations strictly prohibit drivers of commercial vehicles from being behind the wheel for an extended period of time without taking a substantial break in between.

For property-carrying drivers, the limit is 11 hours of work, with a required 10 consecutive hours off-duty in between. For passenger-carrying drivers, the limit is 10 hours of work, with a required 8 consecutive hours off-duty in between.

If hours of service records show that a driver did not follow these restrictions, it could put the trucking company at fault for any accident the driver causes.

Driving History or Alcohol/Drug Testing Results 

Any records pertaining to a driver’s past record could also show that a trucking company is legally and financially responsible for an accident.

They could show the trucking company was negligent by putting a driver with a list of traffic violations, or a history of substance abuse, behind the wheel.

Even if it does not definitively prove fault, it could still be enough to sway the opinions of a judge or jury as to who was likely at fault in a trucking accident.

Vehicle Inspection Reports 

After an accident, trucking companies may look to destroy inspection records that show they were negligent about the maintenance on their trucks prior to the wreck.

This could prove that they did not properly care for their equipment and put a potentially dangerous truck on the road, which led to the accident.

Even though it is legal to destroy these records after a certain amount of time, there is a way to ensure preservation.

How an Attorney Can Prevent Trucking Companies From Destroying Records 

To ensure preservation after an accident, an attorney will send the trucking company in question a letter of spoliation.

This letter serves as legal notice to the trucking company that it may not destroy any records that may be of importance to the accident.

For legal help after a truck accident, call Coffey Trial Law: 954-541-3194.