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What’s in a Truck’s “Black Box” and How Can It Affect a Personal Injury Claim?

Accidents involving large commercial vehicles can be catastrophic. Even worse, attempting to collect the compensation you deserve following an accident can be an uphill battle. Trucking companies and insurers work hard to keep profit in their pockets and out of your hands, even if you’ve sustained life-altering injuries. However, a device on board a truck records information that may be vital to helping you recover the money you need. Most commercial trucks in the U.S. must contain a “black box” recording device.

At The Johnson Injury Firm, we want to help you understand what’s in a truck’s black box and how the information can affect your personal injury claim. 

What Is a Truck’s Black Box Device?

“Black box” is a generic term for electronic logging devices installed on commercial trucks. Numerous devices may fall under the umbrella of a black box device. The first is an electronic control module. ECMs are standard on most modern commercial trucks. These devices record engine performance and vehicle maintenance data and can measure engine speed, temperature, and battery information.

The second device is called an electronic logging device or ELD. ELD systems electronically log a driver’s hours of service, replacing or supplementing handwritten logs. These devices are vital for the commercial trucking industry because the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration restricts the number of hours a truck driver can operate their vehicle for safety purposes. These devices record when the engine is running, whether the truck is in motion, and how far it travels. These records can help track a driver’s movements and ensure they comply with federal hours of service standards.

Finally, there are event data recorders. These electronic devices monitor and record data from the vehicle in the moments before a “significant event” like a crash. Most event data recorders capture data about deceleration, airbag deployment, sudden braking, and other vital crash indicators.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration notes that electronic logging devices increase safety and accountability by tracking, managing, and sharing commercial truck driving data.

How Can a Black Box Affect a Personal Injury Claim?

The data from a truck’s black box records can help strengthen your personal injury claim. Why? Because these electronic devices record information that may help establish liability and prove the truck driver was at-fault for causing an accident. ELD systems track a truck driver’s hours of service. Examining the data may demonstrate that a driver was operating their vehicle beyond the allowed standard hours of service, violating federal regulations. That may also show that the careless driver could have been tired during the collision.

Event data recorders also capture significant data about environmental conditions immediately before an accident, like whether a driver accelerated, hit the brakes too quickly, or didn’t hit the brakes at all. This information can help paint an overall picture of how an accident happened and how the driver’s actions factored into the collision. The same is true for data collected by an electronic control module. ECM data can explain vehicle performance and where mechanical defects or issues played a role in the collision.

Why You Need an Experienced Virginia Truck Accident Attorney

The problem with black box data is that the trucking company owns it, and they are usually unwilling to share unless they are required to do so. It may take legal intervention to preserve data recordings before they are lost or destroyed.

Have you been injured in an accident caused by a careless truck driver? Immediately discuss your situation with a knowledgeable truck accident attorney with The Johnson Injury Firm. Contact our Richmond office or call us at (804) 262-9000 to request your free consultation.


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