Trucking companies and drivers are regulated by multiple government agencies from the federal, state and local levels. Laws are established to keep the trucking industry safe and ethical, and to protect the public at large from dangerous driving and hauling practices that can cause serious and deadly accidents.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires trucking companies as well as drivers to maintain certain records for a mandated period of time. These requirements vary depending on the type of records, and trucking companies are permitted to destroy records after they have been maintained for the required duration.
In some cases, after a driver has been involved in an accident, records are reviewed and destroyed by the trucking company to protect their interests and avoid costly repercussions that could be associated with such records. A truck company’s right to destroy evidence depends on the age of the records.
Why would a trucking company want to destroy records after a crash?
Truck accidents can cause large-scale property damage and serious personal injury. In cases where the truck driver is found at fault for the accident, it can be a very costly situation for the trucking company and/or the company’s insurer. Truck company management understands the ramifications of a serious crash and the impact it can have on insurance premiums, legal costs and reputation.
To protect the company, owners or managers may exercise the truck company’s right to destroy evidence, such as records about the driver or truck, if they meet the minimum FMCSA age requirements for retention.
Certain types of information can be damaging for the company in a personal injury or property damage lawsuit.
- Previously failed drug tests
- Mechanical failures
- Excessive driving hours
What records must be maintained and for how long?
The following requirements for record storage set by the FMCSA supersede a truck company’s right to destroy evidence.
- Hours-of-service logbook: A trucking company is mandated to retain logbook data for a minimum of six months from the time the logs are received from the driver. Drivers must keep a log of the previous seven days’ hours of service. After that time period, records can be destroyed.
- Vehicle inspection reports: Inspection, repair and driver review reports must be maintained by the trucking company for any truck in service and for another eighteen months after the truck leaves service of the company. Such records can reveal critical data about any regulatory violations that could impact an accident claim.
- Drug and alcohol tests: The trucking company must retain any record of a failed drug and alcohol test of any driver for a period of at least five years. This type of data is also crucial if the injured party is trying to prove negligent behavior on the part of the driver.
- Driver personnel files: These files must contain the driver’s road test certifications, application for employment and credentials. The files must be kept for at least three years after the driver terminates employment.
Can I prevent destruction of records in my case?
If you are pursuing a lawsuit against a trucking company after an accident, you should consult an attorney who specializes in such cases to determine the best course of action for your case. In some cases, a spoliation letter can neutralize the truck company’s right to destroy evidence that could support your claim.
The letter can be drafted by your attorney and must inform that you are filing a claim for damages and list the specific types of records that you need to preserve.
Max Meyers can Help
If you’ve been injured or sustained costly property damage as the result of a truck driver’s negligence, it is important that you obtain the compensation that is due to you. Max Meyers understands the complexity of truck accidents and is experienced in navigating the complex claim process. Call us today at 425-399-7000 to set up a consultation to discuss your case with an attorney.