Do commercial trucks really have a black box?

On Behalf of | Mar 30, 2020 | Firm News |

Every year, thousands of individuals sustain injuries in accidents involving commercial trucks. Commercial trucks, which can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds, can cause considerable damage to drivers and occupants of non-commercial vehicles. In many cases, trucking accidents result in death. Unfortunately, attorneys in the past struggled to prove negligence on the part of the truck driver, the trucking company and/or the truck manufacturer, making it difficult for victims and their loved ones to recover compensation. Fortunately, that has changed in recent years due to Electronic Control Modules. 

The proverbial “black box”  

According to FindLaw, most truck manufacturers throughout the U.S. now integrate Electronic Control Modules into the engine’s components. The ECM, euphemistically known as the “black box,” captures ongoing data regarding the truck’s operations over a period of time (typically 30 days). Though data settings may vary from truck to truck, most ECMs record the trucker’s overall average speed, highest speed, amount of time spent driving over 65 miles per hour, total time driven, seat belt usage, idling time, average revolutions per minute and airbag performance. 

When manufacturers began to install ECMs into their trucks’ components, they did so with the hope of countering invalid engine warranty claims. However, in recent years, these components have played a vital role in trucking accident cases. If you want to build a strong case against a trucker, a trucking company and/or a trucking manufacturer, it is important that your attorney act quickly to preserve black box evidence. 

Preserving black box evidence  

Unfortunately for accident victims, a number of states have passed laws that make ECM data the property of trucking companies. This means that, unless a court restraining order is in place, the trucking company may destroy the data immediately following an accident. To prevent the destruction of data following your accident, your attorney must take immediate and deliberate action. 

One of the first things your lawyer should attempt to do is reach a written agreement with the trucking company regarding the preservation of the data. Given that reaching such an agreement is unlikely, however, your attorney may also file a protective order to ensure the protection of the information. 

Once your lawyer accomplishes one of the above, he or she should then seek a court order that prohibits or severely limits the movement of the truck in question and/or its black box until the appropriate parties have time to investigate it. The order should specifically request the preservation of the ECM data and any other on-board data.