What Is a Semi-Truck’s “Black Box”?

Big rig blue classic semi truck

Semi-truck drivers are responsible for carrying potentially millions of dollars’ worth of goods as they travel across the country. This, of course, does not include the value of the truck itself or the cost of liability in the event of a wreck. Because there is so much money on the line, virtually all tractor trailers have a data-gathering “black box” installed. This data will be crucial in the event of a truck accident.

If you are in a semi-truck wreck, it is important that you speak with an experienced Decatur truck accident attorney as soon as possible. At Scholle Law, we have over two decades of experience taking on trucking companies to get our clients the compensation they deserve. One of the first steps we always take is getting the data from the black box, which can provide a wealth of information for your case.

Trucking companies and their lawyers are tough, but we are tougher. Give us a call at (866) 592-1296 or contact us online today for a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced Duluth truck accident attorney today.

What Is a Black Box?

The black box is a generic term that can refer to a few different elements of the computerized systems usually installed in a commercial motor vehicle. These devices are used to monitor driver safety and truck status. While some black boxes record information continually, others only start recording when a crash is detected.

No matter how the black box is set to engage, the information it gathers in a wreck is crucial. Without it, it becomes more difficult to prove the truck driver was at fault for the collision. As such, trucking companies take a hard line about sharing this data without being legally compelled to do so.

There are a few different devices that fall under the category of a “black box”:

Electronic Control Modules

What Is a Black Box infographic

Click for full size

Electronic Control Modules (or ECMs) are the “computers” that run modern engines. It is usually a system consisting of multiple separate computers and sensors that monitor and control various elements of engine and vehicle performance such as fuel injection timing, transmission function, anti-lock brake systems, traction control, and other functions.

ECMs are typically responsible for signaling a “check engine” light to come on and are the system that generates “fault” codes that mechanics can access for diagnostic purposes when trying to identify or fix an engine problem. They record information such as engine speed, temperature, tire pressure, emissions, oxygen ratio, transmission temperature, and battery information, just to name a few.

Electronic Logging Devices

Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) are systems that help monitor the driver’s hours of service. Where drivers used to rely exclusively on handwritten logs, electronic logging devices now record information about when the engine is running, the truck is moving, and how far it travels. That way, accurate information is recorded about whether the drive was complying with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Hours of Service requirements.

Event Data Recorders

Event Data Recorders are what most people think of as the “black box” in a commercial motor vehicle. It is an electronic system that monitors certain information and records data about the vehicle from the moments before an “event” is detected.

While there are different designs, EDRs usually record events like sudden deceleration, airbag deployment, sudden braking events, seatbelt tensioner activation, and other indicators that a crash may have occurred.

When triggered by such an event, they preserve a recording of information such as speed, cruise control status, brake application, clutch application, and wheel turning. This information can be used later to prove exactly what the commercial motor vehicle was doing at the time of the crash and in the seconds leading up to it.

Why Commercial Truck Black Boxes Are Crucial for Tractor-Trailer Accident Victims

Commercial truck black boxes are crucial because they usually contain the best evidence of what the truck driver was doing wrong or what may have been malfunctioning on the truck itself. The data can show that the driver was speeding, failed to brake before a collision, when the exact moment of collision occurred, and what the truck did after the fact.

The black box contains objective proof of what happened and helps prevent the trucking company from rewriting the narrative about what really happened.

After a truck accident, there is a great incentive to fight hard and invest in a strong defensive posture to make the victim go away. Insurance companies have response teams that go onsite to every truck wreck and will get lawyers out to the scene within hours. They often try to lobby the police officer to not issue citations.

Because black box data legally belongs to the trucking company, it can be erased, resulting in the permanent loss of vital evidence from the accident like the truck speed, braking, and trip history. An experienced Atlanta truck accident lawyer knows how to make the trucking company preserve all this data, which could mean the difference between winning and losing your case. At Scholle Law, our priority is helping you get the compensation you deserve. That means forcing the trucking company to hand over all black box data before it can be tampered with.

Give us a call at (866) 592-1296 or contact us online today for a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced Duluth truck accident attorney today.

Atlanta Truck Accident Lawyer