CHAPTER 28

ACCIDENT PROCEDURES

 

Introduction

 

As long as there are factors outside of your control, accidents are still possible, regardless of how carefully you drive your business vehicle (weather, wildlife, other drivers, etc.)

 

As a professional driver, you must comprehend both your function immediately after an accident and your duties at the accident site.

 

Defining the Situation

 

What is an accident? — A DOT reportable accident is defined in Sec. 390.5 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) as an occurrence involving a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operating on a highway in interstate or intrastate commerce which results in:

 

  • A fatality;

  • Injury to a person who, as a result of the injury, immediately receives medical treatment away from the scene of the accident; or

  • Disabling damage to one or more of the vehicles, requiring the vehicle(s) to be towed from the scene.

 

A fatality means any injury which results in the death of a person at the time of the accident or within 30 days of the accident.

 

Vehicles that could have been driven but would have sustained more damage if driven are included in disabling damage. What is not considered "disabling harm" includes:

  • Damage which can be temporarily fixed at the scene without special tools or parts;

  • Tire disablement without other damage (even if no spare is avail- able);

  • Headlamp or taillight damage; and

  • Damage to turn signals, horn, or windshield wipers which makes them inoperative.

 

Accidents that merely involve loading or unloading a vehicle's cargo are not considered accidents. Neither are occurrences involving getting in or out of a parked automobile.

 

Accident register — A motor carrier is required to keep a record of every accident for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to evaluate (FMCSA).

 

A motor carrier is required to keep an accident register for three years after an accident occurs per Sec. 390.15(b) of the FMCSRs. For each accident, the accident register must include the following details.

  1. Date of accident

  2. City/town and state in which the accident occurred;

  3. Driver name;

  4. Number of injuries;

  5. Number of fatalities;

  6. If hazardous substances other than petrol leaked from the fuel tanks of the cars involved in the collision; and

  7. Copies of all accident reports required by state or other governmental entities or insurers.

 

Calculating the Cost

 

The price of an accident goes beyond just fixing and replacing physical property and equipment damage. There are other additional charges, some of which might be hard to calculate. A carrier monitors both direct and indirect costs while estimating an accident's cost.

 

Direct costs —Accident-related direct expenses are those that are most readily quantified in dollars. They may consist of:

  • Physical damage — This category covers all expenses related to repairing and replacing real physical damage to a vehicle or piece of property.

  • Medical expenses — These cover all medical bills for injuries sustained from the accident until the accident case is formally closed.

  • Cargo damage — The total expense of replacing lost and damaged cargo associated with an accident

  • Towing — The cost of towing a car or vehicles may range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars, depending on their condition.

  • Storage — The direct cost must also account for post-accident storage expenses for damaged vehicles at a repair shop or impoundment yard.

  • Police report — Typically, getting an official police report for an accident entails paying a charge.

  • Lost capacity — If the driver who was in the accident is injured or unable to continue working, dispatch capacity will be reduced.

  • Lost utilization — If the vehicle is so damaged that it cannot be operated until repairs have been made, the motor carrier will lose the opportunity for that unit to put on revenue-generating miles.

 

Indirect costs — Related indirect costs are those expenses that you may not be able to place a monetary value on but that nonetheless cost your motor carrier money. They may consist of:

 

  1. Administrative costs — These include phone calls and staff time that was diverted from other everyday tasks to deal with the event.
  2. Workers’ compensation — If there are any personal injuries as a result of the accident, rates for workers' compensation premiums may be affected.
  3. Insurance premiums — A high accident rate, or even one high- profile accident, could mean an increase in insurance premiums, a higher deductible rate, or both. It is also possible that the company could lose its insurance
  4. Customer relations — Customers’ perception of an organization and its drivers may be negatively impacted by a high accident rate. If the customer feels its cargo is not safe with you, other carriers may be considered.
  5. Public relations — Your company's reputation, its employees, and even its goods, may suffer in this area. The general public can start to doubt your company's commitment to product quality and/or safety in the wake of a widely reported disaster.

 

Securing the Scene

 

Regardless of how carefully you operate your car, accidents may still happen. It's critical to be prepared for the unexpected and know what to do and anticipate.

 

When an accident happens, you must handle any immediate issues as well as quickly acquire and submit any accident-related information. The actions listed below may assist you in completing these duties.

 

Stop immediately. Failure to stop is against the law and can result in fines and/or jail time.

Leaving the scene of an accident can also disqualify you as the holder of a commercial driver’s license (CDL) from driving a CMV for one year. (See Sec. 383.51 of the FMCSRs for details.)

 

When involved in an accident, remain calm and pull your vehicle as far off the road as possible.

 

If the accident involves an unoccupied vehicle, try to find the owner. If the owner can’t be found, leave your name, the company’s name, address, and phone number in a visible location, such as under a windshield wiper blade, and contact law enforcement. Also write down the make, model, year, license number, and description of the unoccupied vehicle to supply to your company.

Prevent additional accidents. The first warning signal should be the four-way flashers on your car, followed by the placement of emergency warning equipment. Within ten minutes after halting, the equipment has to be deployed.

 

Emergency warning device placement is spelled out in Part 392 of the FMCSRs and is described below:

 

Warning devices must be placed in the following order:

 

  1. Two-lane road — The devices should be placed as follows:

  • Depending on the direction of the traffic, the first device should be positioned four paces (about 10 feet) from the front or back of the car.

  • The second device has to be positioned 40 steps (or 100 feet) behind the car.

  • A third device should be placed 40 paces (about 100 feet) ahead of the vehicle on the shoulder or in the lane the vehicle is in.

2.  One-way or divided highway — On a one-way or split roadway, the devices should be positioned 10, 100, and 200 feet out from the back of the car, facing oncoming traffic.

 

3.  Within 500 feet of a hill, curve, or obstruction — If a slope, curve, or obstacle is within 500 feet of the vehicle, a device should be positioned 100 to 500 feet away from the car in the direction of the impediment. The placement of the remaining two should follow the guidelines for split or two-lane roadways.

 

A vehicle must have three liquid burning flares, six fusees, or three bidirectional emergency reflective triangles as approved warning devices. The triangles must adhere to 49 CFR 571.125's requirements. Underwriters Laboratories standards must be met by fuses and liquid-burning flares. On vehicles transporting explosives, flammable gases, flammable liquids, or motor vehicles utilizing compressed gas as a motor fuel, flame-producing equipment is not permitted.

 

Notify law enforcement. Call law enforcement officials. Provide as many details as possible, including the location of the accident, the number of vehicles involved, and the number of people involved.

 

Never leave the scene of an accident to notify law enforcement unless there is no means of communicating at the accident site.

 

Check for injuries. You should contact for medical help if someone is wounded. A person who is hurt shouldn't be moved unless there is a danger of fire or further harm. If you are trained in first aid methods, you could be able to help to depend on corporate policies.

You should at the very least call for assistance, find out whether the other individual wants someone notified, and keep them warm. Just as harmful as doing nothing at all is doing too much. Never try anything you are not skilled at.

 

Contact the carrier. Notify your company of the accident as soon as possible. Know whom to call in the event of an accident. These names and phone numbers should always be available, possibly posted in a single place in each cab. Follow all company rules, be cooperative, and answer all questions posed by the company representative (safety director, dispatcher, etc.).

You are prohibited from consuming alcohol for eight hours after an accident, or until you submit to a post-accident alcohol test, whichever occurs first.

 

Damaged vehicle — The firm representative will also advise you on how to manage such a vehicle (towing, repairs, etc.). The carrier may offer authorization to drive the vehicle from the accident site to a garage if it is not immobilized (under the condition that it receives a comprehensive pre-trip examination to assure safety).

 

Commenting on the situation — Before commenting on the circumstance, consider it. Any words you say might be used against you. What may be mentioned after an accident is governed by particular regulations at several carriers. However, they must be cautious not to be too secretive since law enforcement can interpret this as a refusal to comply. Maintaining a low profile does not exclude being courteous to the persons concerned. Always act professionally. No matter what, you always represent your firm.

 

Document the accident.

The more information you can provide, the more likely it is that future insurance and legal concerns won't arise. Record all details about the incident and everyone involved, including:

  • Time and location of accident;

  • Description of damage to vehicles and property;

  • Name and address of all individuals involved;

  • The names and addresses of all parties' insurance providers;

  • Type, make, model, and license numbers of all vehicles involved;

  • Names and departments of any investigating officers.

 

In their vehicles, many motor carriers carry accident reporting kits. These kits may be utilised to provide answers when you're not feeling rational. A disposable camera might also be a fantastic tool for capturing the event's details. It's also a smart idea to create a straightforward representation of the scenario.

 

Photographs — A disposable camera could be the most practical tool you can have on hand. By documenting an accident, you may learn how it happened and how much damage was done. However, you must be aware of what to picture and what not to.

  • Use wide views to depict where the cars will ultimately end up, starting with the fog line at the side of the road and moving toward the site of the collision.

  • Get broad photos of the cars' front, back, sides, and damage from the centerline.

  • Take close-up shots of damage and any skid marks or road debris.

  • Never take pictures of individuals who have been injured or killed.

 

 

Hazardous Materials

 

There may be significant dangers to safety, health, and the environment when an accident or event includes a hazardous substance. As a result, more legal criteria must be observed.

 

If you transport hazardous products, your company is required to instruct you on how to handle spills, leaks, and other crises.

 

You must notify your firm right away if you are engaged in an incident or accident. Your actions will be governed by corporate policy and applicable regulations. Keep onlookers away from the area, at the very least.

 

If a hazardous material response team is called to the scene, follow their instructions.

 

Also, certain reports must be made by your company (See Sec. 171.15 and Sec. 171.16 of the Hazardous Materials Regulations for details.)

 

Vehicle Fires

 

A car fire may be a risky and terrifying situation. Many car fires may be avoided using common sense, safe driving practices, and proper housekeeping, but sadly not all fires can be stopped. You must be ready to handle this potentially hazardous circumstance.

 

Prevention — For a fire to start and spread, it needs fuel, air, and heat. Keeping those components apart is the key to fire prevention. One of the following three locations sees the most car fires: Cab/engine; Tires/brakes; and Cargo.

 

Cab/Engine — Good housekeeping is important. The cab should be clean and free of debris at all times.

 

Regular inspections of the engine area are necessary. Always keep the engine clean. Oils and other fluids that spill on the engine should be cleaned up very away. All rags should be removed from the area after work on the engine is finished, and all fluid caps should be repositioned in their proper locations.

 

Regular checks should be made of the following items:

  • Wiring and electrical system;

  • Fuses;

  • Battery;

  • Exhaust system.

 

When refueling, the engine should be turned off and all smoking mate- rials should be extinguished. Turn off your cell phone. The fuel tank should be checked for signs of leakage. Also, make sure you have metal to metal contact while fueling.

 

Tires/Brakes — Another source of ignition for car fires is overheated tires. The possibility of a tire fire increases when a tire is underinflated and overheats. Change a soft or flat tire as soon as you can.

 

If a hot tire is changed, it shouldn’t be placed in the spare tire rack until it cools.

 

Brakes should also be checked regularly, as worn brakes can overheat, causing a fire.

 

All brakes (including the parking brake) should be fully released before a vehicle is moved.

 

Also, never ride the brakes. Riding the brakes can cause a fire in the brake linings that could spread to the tires.

 

Cargo —Check your mirrors sometimes for smoke. Never use smoking materials close to a vehicle transporting hazardous materials or in the cargo area while cargo is being loaded or unloaded.

 

Understand the goods you are transporting. This information is crucial so that you and/or emergency personnel can react appropriately.

 

Putting out fires — The driver's and other people's safety comes first in a fire situation. If at all feasible, relocate the car far from other persons, cars, and structures. The next step is to put out the fire, but don't endanger yourself. Leave it to the pros if a fire is too big or risky to manage.

 

Cab/engine fires — The following are basic steps to follow when deal- ing with a cab/engine fire.

  • Turn off the vehicle’s engine. If you can do it safely, also look for fuel leaks.

  • Disconnect the battery cables from the terminals (if it can be safely done) if the fire is electrical.

  • When battling an engine fire, don't open the hood more than is required. Keep in mind that one of the components that will assist a fire burn is air.

  • Never apply water to a fire caused by petroleum. A fire that is fuelled by petroleum will spread if water is used.

  • Comply with the fire extinguisher's instructions. The extinguisher should be used with the wind behind it to prevent smoke and odors.

  • Never assume a fire is completely out. Fires often smolder, spark, and can reignite.

 

Tire fires — Tire fires are hazardous and difficult to put out. This occurs as a result of the extremely flammable substance used to make tires. Heat may be produced in great quantities by a tire fire. When putting out a tire fire, many factors need to be kept in mind.

  • Remove the hot tire (if it can be done safely) from the vehicle.

  • Use water to fight a tire fire. Water helps cool a tire as well as extinguish flames. Fire extinguishers are good at suppressing flames, but will not be able to put out a tire fire.

 

Cargo Fires — The presence or smell of smoke surrounding cargo doors may often lead to the discovery of cargo fires. When battling a cargo fire, there are several factors to bear in mind.

 

  1. Do not open the doors if smoke is detected until the vehicle is in a safe place and help has arrived.
  2. Disconnect the tractor from the trailer (if possible) and move the tractor to a safe place away from the fire.

  3. Always know what type of cargo is in the trailer. This will help firefighters determine the safest way to extinguish the flames.

 

General classes of fires — Based on the combustible components involved and the kind of extinguisher required to put out each type of fire, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has identified four main categories of fires. The four types of fire are classified as A, B, C, and D. A unique symbol and color are used to identify each classification.

 

  • Class A. These kinds of flames predominate. Paper, cloth, rubber, and plastic are all flammable materials. The most common extinguisher is water, although dry chemicals are just as effective. Carbon dioxide extinguishers and those that use sodium or potassium bicarbonate chemicals should not be used to put out this kind of fire.

 

  • Class B. Flammable liquids, gases, and greases create Class B fires.

The extinguishers to use are foam, carbon dioxide, and dry chemical.

 

  • Class C. Class C fires are electrical fires and a nonconducting agent must be used. Carbon dioxide and dry chemical extinguishers are to be used. Never use foam or water-type extinguishers on these fires.

 

  • Class D. Flames involving combustible metals including sodium, magnesium, titanium, and zirconium are Class D fires. To put out these fires, specialist methods are needed. None of the typical extinguishers should be used since they may create another chemical reaction that would intensify the fire.

 

Two multi-purpose ABC extinguishers, either stored pressure or cartridge is driven, are the only dry chemical extinguishers that may be used on Class A, B, and C fires. ABC multipurpose extinguishers can put out all types of A, B, and C fires. All fire extinguishers are marked with ABC, A, B, C, or another letter. Understanding the sort of fire that is currently active is crucial. Use fire extinguishers solely for the kind of fires for which they are intended if you do so. Using the incorrect chemical to put out a fire might make it worse. Examine the fire extinguisher's label. The fire class(es) it is intended to extinguish should be listed.

 

Fire extinguishers — All commercial motor vehicles must have one or two well-stocked, easily accessible fire extinguishers, depending on the vehicle's classification, according to Section 393.95 of the FMCSRs. The extinguisher(s) must be safely installed on the vehicle and must be built and kept in such a condition that it can be seen if it is completely charged. A vehicle must have one fire extinguisher with an Underwriters' Laboratories rating of 10 B: C or above if it is transporting hazardous items. A vehicle must have either one fire extinguisher with an Underwriters' Laboratories rating of 5 B: C or more, or two fire extinguishers, each with an Underwriters' Laboratories rating of 4 B: C or more, if it is not carrying hazardous chemicals.

 

Evaluating the Accident

 

Preventable accident — By reviewing the following industry standard definitions for preventable accident, you will gain a better under- standing on how a carrier would evaluate an accident.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA): According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a preventable accident happens as a result of the driver's failure to take reasonable precautions to avoid it. One aims to ascertain if the motorist drove conservatively and had a sufficient degree of skill and knowledge in assessing whether the actions were reasonable. A company-adopted definition may be used to determine what is appropriate, setting a target for its safety management initiatives.

 

National Safety Council (NSC): A preventable accident is defined by the National Safety Council (NSC) as "any accident involving a company-controlled vehicle that results in property damage and/or personal injury, regardless of who was injured, what property was damaged, to what extent, or where it occurred, in which the driver in question failed to exercise reasonable precaution to pre-vent the accident."

 

Because there are a number of different areas to consider, preventability cannot be defined in a single sentence. First, everyone at a motor carrier must understand that preventable does not necessarily imply blame or fault. Preventable means accountable.

 

Proper assessment of preventability relies on the active, personal involvement and sound judgment of supervisors and managers. Preventability usually can only be correctly determined after an appropriate, and in some cases, extensive investigation is conducted. While there may be a difference of opinion in determining preventability, the process should result in sound decision-making.

Everyone concerned must understand and agree that evaluating preventability involves more than assigning blame or guilt; it involves working out what happened and why to prevent it from happening again.

 

Preventability guidelines — The determination of preventability is at the core of accident analysis. All available data that are relevant to the accident's cause must be taken into consideration while evaluating information. In many cases, a thorough examination and reconstruction of the accident sequence might provide useful information. Every accident has to be evaluated separately. In the absence of mitigating events and situations, however, certain kinds will often fall into the non-preventable group while others will fall into the preventable category.

 

Accident review committee — accident investigation panel Typically, your supervisor will decide without consulting or involving others when it comes to decisions with clear-cut preventability. However, in a few tense situations, he or she could need assistance. This assistance often takes the shape of an accident review committee for motor carriers.

 

Some businesses use an accident review committee as a tool to assess the likelihood of an accident occurring in challenging settings, instances with several variables, or scenarios with peculiar circumstances. It often consists of representatives from several departments as well as certain drivers.

 

Summary

 

Even the most skilled driver might have an accident at some time in their career. When the unexpected occurs, you must quickly and securely find a solution that complies with the law. You studied accidents in this chapter, including what constitutes an accident, what laws must be followed, how to handle documentation and reporting duties after an accident, and how to put out car fires.