Record keeping requirements in interstate tractor trailer crash cases

Truck accident cases, in Georgia and elsewhere, are far more document intensive than most personal injury or wrongful death cases other than products liability and medical malpractice.

If a knowledgeable plaintiff's attorney has the opportunity to get an early start on a case, the record keeping required of motor carriers provides a wealth of opportunity. If a lawyer who is not familiar with all the records and how they are (or are not) maintained, a good case may be lost.

  1. i. Driver qualification and investigation history files. 49 C.F.R. § 391.51 and 391.53 detail mandatory contents of driver qualification and driver investigation history files, including the employment application, responses by state agencies to requests for driving records, road test certificate, annual driver record responses, list of motor vehicle violations, medical examiner's certificate, waiver letter regarding any physical disqualification, and records of the required inquiries to and responses from former employers. With limited exceptions, these files must be maintained three years after the end of employment. When a motor carrier borrows a driver regularly employed by another motor carrier, 49 C.F.R. § 391.65 requires a certificate of qualifications must be provided by the regular employer and maintained by the borrowing carrier for two years.

  2. ii. Driver's record of duty status and supporting documents. 49 C.F.R. § 395.8 requires that "[e]ach motor carrier shall maintain records of duty status and all supporting documents for each driver it employs for a period of six months from the date of receipt." In addition to driver logs, this includes "[s]upporting documents . . . maintained in the ordinary course of business and used by the motor carrier to verify the information recorded on the driver's record of duty status. Examples are: bills of lading, carrier pros, freight bills, dispatch records, driver call-in records, gate record receipts, weight/scale tickets, fuel receipts, fuel billing statements, toll receipts, international registration plan receipts, international fuel tax agreement receipts, trip permits, port of entry receipts, cash advance receipts, delivery receipts, lumper receipts, interchange and inspection reports, lessor settlement sheets, over/short and damage reports, agricultural inspection reports, CVSA reports, accident reports, telephone billing statements, credit card receipts, driver fax reports, on-board computer reports, border crossing reports, custom declarations, traffic citations, overweight/oversize reports and citations, and/or other documents directly related to the motor carrier's operation, which are retained by the motor carrier in connection with the operation of its transportation business. Supporting documents may include other documents which the motor carrier maintains and can be used to verify information on the driver's records of duty status."

  3. iii. Other record keeping requirements. Appendix A to Part 379 sets forth the schedule of records and periods of retention. A one year retention term is prescribed for personnel, payroll, shipping and agency documents. Other corporate and financial records have longer retention terms.