Truck companies hold several types of records that could be useful as evidence after an accident. It’s important to understand the trucking company’s right to destroy safety and other records, and how an individual injured in a truck accident can preserve information and documentation that may be critical to the claim.
What are the truck company’s rights to destroy records?
It’s important to understand that federal law mandates when (and which) records can be destroyed. For the most part, there is a lengthy period of time for which the company must retain records. The following are examples of records that could become relevant in an accident case, along with regulations pertaining to their destruction.
Misuse of Alcohol or Controlled Substances
If there is suspicion that a truck driver was impaired at the time of the accident or competency is brought into question, it could become necessary to look at any past problems with alcohol or controlled substances. At a minimum, most records that show positive test results should be kept on file for five years.
The time period for retention of records might be less for other types of information. For instance, those that show negative test results or results with a blood alcohol concentration of less than 0.02 must be maintained just one year.
Inspection, Repair and Maintenance of Commercial Motor Vehicle
Another issue that can arise after an accident is the safety of the truck. Inspection, repair and maintenance records can help show if inspections on parts and accessories were performed on a regular basis or if there was an indication of a problem but no repairs were made. An example is the steering system, which could have been the cause of an accident if it malfunctioned and the driver lost control.
Records are to be kept at all times the vehicle is under the responsibility of the truck company. They cannot be destroyed until at least one year and six months after the truck is no longer in the company’s control.
Hours of Service
The driver’s hours-of-service status must be recorded through a logbook or an onboard recording device. These records help show the amount of time on and off duty. A specific reason they could be helpful is to show violations, such as a truck driver not taking a mandatory 30-minute break after driving eight hours or driving for a longer period of time than allowed.
These records must be kept by the truck company for at least six months upon receiving them. This includes any supporting documentation.
What can I do to prevent a truck company from destroying records?
One of the ways a truck company can be put on notice that it is legally required to preserve records is by having the attorney send a letter of spoliation. These typically address specific types of records that cannot be altered, hidden or destroyed. It may also request retention of the driver’s personnel and qualification file as well as the truck itself.
Talk to an attorney at The Miley Legal Group in Clarksburg. Call 304-931-4088 to set up a consultation with a lawyer about your claim.