"Black Boxes" and Commercial Trucking Accidents
When reconstructing truck accidents, it isn’t unusual for statements
made by those involved in an accident to give conflicting accounts of
how an accident happened. In some cases, reports made by eyewitnesses
to an accident may help to “sort out” these conflicting statements
by verifying the account given by one party or the other. Unfortunately,
there are many accidents where there are no such eyewitness reports available.
In the following article the
commercial trucking accident lawyer at the
Doan Law Firm will discuss how a personal injury lawyer can use the electronic devices
that are installed on most commercial trucks, as well as data from other
sources, to recreate the circumstances leading to a trucking accident.
The “Black Boxes”
Everyone has heard of the electronic flight data recorders, the “black
boxes,” that are installed on commercial aircraft. These devices
record information such as altitude, speed, engine conditions, and voice
communications in the cockpit and are invaluable in determining the causes
of aircraft accidents. However, most people are unaware that most commercial
trucks contain similar devices called Engine Control Modules and Electronic
Engine Control Module
Since the 1990s, practically every commercial truck manufactured in the
United States contains a device known as the “Engine Control Module”
(ECM) or some similar name. Regardless of what it is called, this device
measures and records the truck’s engine conditions such as operating
temperature, fuel mixture, gear selection, and engine exhaust temperature.
These units can also record other data such as the vehicle’s speed
and brake use. Following an accident, this information can be downloaded
and used to create a “snapshot” of how the truck was being
operated prior to an accident.
Electronic Logging Device
An Electronic Logging Device (ELD) is intended to replace the use of paper
logbooks where drivers record data such as hours of service and other
information required by federal and/or state law. Many trucking companies
use ELD systems to automatically record data such as a truck’s location
via GPS, cargo, and other information that would have required the driver
to contact the company dispatcher before such systems became widely available.
Although there are a number of exemptions to the ELD regulations, many
trucking companies have voluntarily adopted these systems as add-ons to
Personal communication devices
Personal communication devices include cellphones, iPads, tablets, laptop
computers or any other device that a driver uses to communicate with his
or her family, friends, other drivers, or employer. Since these devices
use a “time stamp” to record the time that the device was
in use, as well as with whom the driver was communicating, it is possible
that such data could be used to confirm or refute data from other sources
such as the truck’s ECM or ELD. Most importantly, such data could
be used to verify statements made by the driver to police following an accident.
Traffic monitoring cameras
In many locations, the state Department of Transportation uses remote television
cameras to monitor weather conditions and traffic flow on major highways.
On occasion, these cameras will actually record a big truck accident as
it happens. These cameras can also document when a truck passed through
the camera’s field of view and this time can be used to estimate
the average speed of the truck prior to an accident.
Why electronic data is important following a commercial truck accident
At the Doan Law Firm our
commercial trucking accident lawyer can often use electronically-recorded data from both the ECM and the
ELD to reconstruct the truck’s physical status up to and including
the time an accident occurred. Unfortunately, access to such data is often
left under the control of the trucking company since there are no laws/regulations
that protect such data from destruction after an accident. An experienced
truck accident lawyer can, however, take steps to prevent the deliberate
destruction of data that may prove invaluable to a successful commercial
truck accident injury case.
Our firm can subpoena a trucking company to produce all data that may be
relevant to a truck accident, including all electronic records unique
to the truck itself and the driver. We also have access to databases that
list similar accidents involving the same company’s trucks. In many
cases this evidence will be all that is needed to prove negligence on
the part of the trucking company and the company will be forced to settle
on terms that favorable to our client.
When you contact the
commercial truck accident lawyer at the
Doan Law Firm, your
case review is always free of charge and will not obligate you to hire our firm. Should
you decide to have us represent you in your commercial truck accident
case, we will assume responsibility for all aspects of preparing your
case for trial in exchange for a previously-negotiated percentage of the
final settlement that we will win for you.