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The “Black Box” and Its Crucial Role in Trucking Cases

By Jaeson Homola

 

If you’ve ever seen a news report about a plane crash, you’ve likely heard the term “black box” used to describe the information storing device located in all commercial aircrafts.  However, most people don’t realize those same information storing devices are also standard features on most commercial big rigs and can play a vital role in the outcome of a litigated trucking case.

The standard name for what is commonly referred to as a “black box” is “electronic control module” (ECM) or “event data recorder” (EDR).  These devices store data about the physical properties of a vehicle at the time it is involved in a collision.  Most commercial trucks are equipped with an ECM or EDR, and many national or regional carriers also use satellite tracking equipment or trip recorders to monitor their fleets.

Information that can be stored and downloaded from EDRs in most commercial trucks includes:

  • speed history
  • excessive RPM
  • fuel consumption
  • heavy braking
  • hours driven
  • movement summary
  • idle time
  • fast acceleration
  • driver identification

Currently, federal regulations do not require that trucks have EDRs; however, almost all truck engines today have an ECM that functions as an EDR. An ECM is standard equipment on all diesel fuel injection systems. ECMs allow companies to monitor and analyze trip times, speeds, total idle time and the existence and number of hard stops.

“Black box” data is invaluable to an experienced Tallahassee truck accident attorney when investigating the cause of a trucking collision and must be obtained at all costs.  Many times a client is so badly injured in a trucking collision that he/she either doesn’t remember any details surrounding the collision or is no longer alive to tell his/her side of the story.  Unfortunately, without “black box” data the attorney and loved ones are left to rely on the account of eyewitnesses, which oftentimes consists only of the commercial truck driver.  Many times the “black box” data can level the playing field and provide its own eyewitness version of events often delivering information which outright refutes the version of events put forth by the commercial driver.

For example, imagine a situation where an individual is rear-ended on the interstate in the middle of the night when there is no one else on the road.  Unfortunately, the individual that is rear-ended passes away leaving only the commercial truck driver to narrate the events leading to the crash.  The truck driver states he was traveling below the speed limit and came upon the car going at a low rate of speed with no lights activated.  He states he attempted to brake but could not stop in time to avoid the collision.

Obviously, just hearing those facts on their face almost anyone would conclude the rear-ended driver was at fault.  However, upon receiving the “black box” data an entirely different picture is painted whereby the commercial driver was actually traveling 20 mph over the speed limit and never engaged his brakes prior to the collision.  Learning that information completely changes the perception of what happened and lends credence to a version of events not so favorable to the truck driver.  It also provides solid evidence for an experienced trucking accident attorney in Tallahassee to use in fighting for justice.

Unfortunately, trucking collisions happen daily on the roadways throughout Florida and Georgia and many injured individuals and/or their families end up hiring attorneys who either have no idea the “black box” data exists or, if they do, how to go about obtaining it.  Far too often trucking collisions are not thoroughly investigated and viable claims are forgotten because “black box” data is not obtained.

The attorneys at Barrett, Fasig & Brooks are well versed in the intricacies of trucking cases and will leave no stone unturned if you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a careless truck driver.

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