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Is There a Black Box in Commercial Trucks?

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Overhead shot of semi truck on highway

Billions of tons of goods, which are worth trillions of dollars, are transported in the U.S. each year, and large portions of these goods are delivered by commercial trucks. Transportation companies want to track the trucks in their fleets to ensure they meet their delivery deadlines and remain on course. In addition, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) wants trucks and their drivers to be tracked to ensure they meet various regulatory requirements. If you were injured in a collision involving a semi-truck, these facts might lead you to wonder, “Is there a black box in commercial trucks?”

Is There a Black Box in Commercial Trucks?

Is there a black box in commercial trucks? The short answer is yes.

Commercial trucks have components installed that are generally referred to as black boxes. However, this term is fairly broad and refers to several components within a truck’s computerized system. These different components record various information about the driver and trip and can provide important evidence in a truck accident claim.

Electronic Logging Devices

Electronic logging devices (ELDs) must be installed in commercial trucks under the FMCSA’s ELD mandate. These devices record when the truck’s engine is running, how far the truck travels, and when it moves. ELDs provide important information about whether the driver complied with the hours of service rules, which often factor into truck accident claims based on negligence causes of action.

Electronic Control Modules

Electronic control modules (ECMs) are computerized systems that run modern engines and are found in cars and commercial trucks alike. ECMs include sensors and various small computers that complete diagnostics and control various performance elements. An ECM can be important because it records information about many different systems and issues, including such things as a truck’s tire pressure, the engine’s speed, temperature, battery power, and more. This information might be important in cases in which faulty repairs or negligent maintenance might be contributing factors in the cause of a trucking collision.

Event Data Recorders

Event data recorders (EDRs) are what people typically envision when they wonder if there is a black box in a commercial truck. These devices are similar to the black boxes in airplanes and record information in the seconds surrounding events, including crashes. A commercial truck’s EDR will record sudden acceleration or deceleration, braking, the deployment of airbags, and increased tension in seatbelts. They record information about the turning of the truck’s wheels, brake application, speed, whether the cruise control is on or off, and other important data surrounding a crash.

Why “Black Box” Data Is Important

Information from these devices can provide important evidence that the truck driver and truck company were at fault in a trucking accident. Combined with other physical evidence, witness testimony, medical reports, and more, ELD, ECM, and EDR data can be used to determine liability and build a strong case for an injured victim. Since this type of information can be lost or spoliated soon after a truck crash, it’s important for victims to speak with experienced truck collision lawyers as soon as possible after their accidents.

Truck accident attorneys can send preservation letters to trucking companies to demand they preserve black box data instead of allowing it to be overwritten. They can also compel the production of black box data from the trucking companies so that it can be reviewed and analyzed by the attorney and experts. In some cases, trucking carriers will take active steps to destroy evidence following serious truck accidents, and attorneys can take steps to prevent them from doing so.

What Happens If a Truck Company Destroys Black Box Evidence?

If a truck company destroys evidence from ELDs, EDRs, or ECMs following a truck crash, the plaintiff’s lawyer can file a motion for sanctions with the court. If the court finds that the defendant spoliated the evidence, the jury can be instructed to infer the evidence would have been unfavorable to the defendant if it had been available.

Talk to the Law Offices of Bryan Musgrave

If you were involved in a truck accident and sustained serious injuries, you should consult an experienced lawyer at the Law Offices of Byran Musgrave. We can provide a free case evaluation and help you secure the black box data from the commercial truck if we accept representation. Call us at 417-322-2222 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation and learn more about your potential rights.

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