They're just a phone call away. A whole team of professionals--accident reconstruction experts, adjusters, and insurance company attorneys. When there is a serious large truck collision, frequently this team is on the scene within minutes or hours. Their purpose? Gathering physical evidence, taking measurements and photos/videos of skid and yaw marks, and plotting diagrams of the accident scene. Sometimes they arrive at an accident scene even before local law enforcement.
Often referred to as "rapid response teams," they've been assembled by trucking insurance companies in order to investigate collisions involving their insured commercial trucks. But the real reason these teams are deployed is simple: to minimize their risk and liability.
In addition to evaluating the accident scene, there is a truckload (pardon the pun) of other information and data that trucking companies gather and analyze. Things like drivers logs, bills of lading, fuel and toll recipts, dispatch, and driver computer records can yield valuable information as to driver location and violation of federal and state hours of service violations. More importantly, satellite tracking systems and GPS data can be matched and compared to paper records. Finally, ECM (Electronic Control Module) data contained in the tractor can often reveal vehicle speed, starts and stops, and the timing and type of any mechanical failures.
As you can see, the paper and electronic trail involving the operation of large trucks can be complex. The problem? Some of this information is subject to limits on how long a trucking company is required to maintain and keep it. For example:
Driver's record of duty status (logs) for day of and day after and thirty preceding days before the crash.
Retention period -6 months 49CFR 395.8
Messages to and from driver and vehicle for day before, day of and day alter the crash from satellite or cellular communications system and ten days preceding the crash:
Retention period -6 months 49 CFR 395.8
Dispatch or computer records for driver involved for day of crash and preceding thirty days - showing pick-up and delivery points and appointments:
Retention period - 6 months 49CFR395.8
Dispatch records - IFTA & IRP 4 yrs.
Driver payroll records or owner operators settlement for week of and week after crash and the preceding thirty days:
Retention period - one year
Fuel receipts and fuel filling records, toll receipts, maintenance receipts for equipment vehicle(s) involved in the crash for day of the crash and preceding thirty days:
Retention period - six months 49 CFR 395.8
Maintenance files and records:
6 months after vehicle leaves control of motor carrier 49 CFR 396.3
Lesson: trucking companies have the upper hand if you're the victim of a crash with a large truck. Don't expect them to do the right thing and preserve any incriminating evidence, particularly if you delay in seeking an experienced Ohio truck accident attorney or firm to represent you. After all, their motivation in dispatching a response team is not necessarily to document and preserve the truth.