There’s an object in most semi-trucks called a black box recorder. Its official name is electronic control module (ECM) or event data recorder (EDR). They’re devices installed in motor vehicles to record technical vehicle and occupant information for a brief period of time before, during, and after a crash.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, black boxes can record the following:
- Pre-crash vehicle dynamics and system status
- Driver inputs
- Vehicle crash signature
- Restraint usage/deployment status
- Post-crash data such as the activation of an automatic collision notification (ACN) system
Black Box’s Vital Information
Regarding semi-truck accidents, the information inside a black box recorder can be used as evidence in court against the driver. They can keep track of the following data:
- GPS coordinate location
- Average speed
- Speed at time of accident
- Acceleration rate
- Hard braking and sudden stops
- Cruise control usage
- Seat belt usage
- Length of time driving and distance
- Driver identification
The data can also be used to recreate the accident with computer animation software.
The driver and trucking company are not legally required to share this information with an accident victim. They fight hard against turning over black box recordings if they have proof the driver is liable. The company is required to give this information to law enforcement, though.
Trucking companies may overwrite or delete information from the black box recording (intentionally or by accident). Restarting the engine or driving the truck after the accident can clear black box data.
During and After an Accident
It’s crucial for semi-truck accident victims to ask if black box data can be preserved at the scene and to request the truck be towed rather than driven away.
Many black box recorders can only save data for thirty days or less. Ensuring the data is saved is crucial, and that may involve a protective order and subpoena.