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What to Know About Commercial Truck Black Boxes

You’ve probably heard the phrase “black box” in terms of aircraft and planes. Any time a plane crashes, black box data can be reviewed to gain insight as to what happened in the moments leading up to the crash. This is particularly valuable to assist in recreating the crash, getting to the bottom of what happened, and learning how to correct potential mistakes in the future. What you may not know is that most large commercial trucks, like 18-wheelers, come equipped with a black box as well.

What Is a Black Box?

Black boxes are often referred to as Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs). They are designed to detect certain actions and data that can provide insight into how and why a collision occurred. They record this information, and data gained from the 5-10 seconds before the crash can be critical when it comes to investigating the accident. Federal trucking regulations instituted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) require interstate commercial trucks to be equipped with ELDs. In addition to preserving information about a crash, these devices serve another valuable purpose – they can monitor driving time to ensure that truck drivers comply with federal hours of service guidelines, which are rules put in place to limit truck driver fatigue.

What Do Black Boxes Reveal?

Information that may be revealed from a truck’s ELD include:

  • Driver speed (including average speed)
  • GPS coordinates
  • Steering position
  • Braking activity, including whether the brakes were applied
  • Whether seatbelts were in use
  • Whether the driver slammed on his or her brakes

Obtaining Data from a Truck’s Black Box

A black box contains valuable information – but how can you access it? It is not enough simply to know that a truck has a black box. Steps must be actively taken to ensure that evidence is preserved and can be obtained. Following an accident, the trucking company is unlikely to contact you, explain your rights, and offer to preserve the evidence on its own. If you do not act quickly, the evidence could disappear or be destroyed in the ordinary course of business, especially if the vehicle is salvaged or later sold. If you hire an attorney as soon after your accident as possible, he or she can take steps to prevent spoliation of evidence.

Once the evidence is being safely preserved, steps can be taken to gather it. Black box data must be downloaded, and this is often performed by trucking experts. When speaking with attorneys, you should ask whether they have the resources to retain qualified experts who can perform the necessary downloads and then interpret the data. Data gathered from a truck’s ELD may be used to reconstruct the accident, which can come in handy for accidents involving disputed liability. If the truck company disputes fault and refuses to accept responsibility, your expert’s reconstruction could make all the difference in your case and ability to recover fair compensation for your injuries, medical bills, lost wages, and pain suffering.

Injured in a Truck Accident? Our Lawyers Can Help

Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz is a large personal injury law firm dedicated to fighting for the rights of people injured in truck accidents. For 25+ years, we have protected the rights of accident victims from states like Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, and Kentucky. For a free consultation with a truck accident lawyer today, call us at 800-529-4004 or complete our online form.