What is a Semi-Truck Black Box or Electronic Data Recorder

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What is a Semi-Truck Black Box or Electronic Data Recorder?

Our law office has handled very serious truck accidents over the years. One of the most important pieces of evidence in Michigan truck accident cases is the event data recorder or “black box” that almost all vehicles now have. These pieces of hardware and software often play a critical role in truck accident investigation and establishing liability on the trucking company.

Clients will ask us what is in the black box and how do we obtain it for the case. These are good questions and this article will explain this in more detail.

What is a Big Truck Black Box?

A black box, or “event data recorder” (EDR) or “event data module” (ECM) is a computer system connected to the truck that records important data about the movement and performance of the motor vehicle. Unlike a black box found in an airplane, which often records data for the entire flight, a black box in a truck contains less memory. However, it provides investigators with valuable data about the time leading up to and after the crash.

The information contained in the black box can help investigators and trucking experts explain how the crash occurred and why it occurred. They provide insight into what was occurring inside and even around the vehicle at the time of a terrible trucking accident.

What is the Purpose of the Black Box?

According to the federal safety regulations, the purpose of the black box is “to help insure that EDRs record, in a readily usable manner, data valuable for effective crash investigations and for analysis of safety equipment performance (e.g., advanced restraint systems). These data will help provide a better understanding of the circumstances in which crashes and personal injuries occur and will lead to safer vehicle designs.” C.F.R. 563.2.

What Kind of Information Does a Black Box Record?

Not all trucks contain a black box, however, about 95% of trucks manufactured today will have a black box as part of their system control. In 2010, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) required truck manufacturers adding black boxes to their vehicles to make them capable of collecting various elements of data. This has included the speed of the vehicle, whether brakes were applied, if seatbelts were used and if the airbags deployed.

Besides these important pieces of information, an event data recorded can also record other information and data, including:

  • Engine speed before, during and after impact
  • Brake switch status
  • Throttle position
  • The time from maximum deceleration to impact
  • Time from vehicle impact to airbag deployment
  • The ignition cycle at the time of the crash
  • GPS coordinates at the time of the crash
  • The number of crashes or events that truck was involved in and how time elapsed between these crashes

How Do You Get the Information Off a Black Box?

Finding and properly downloading the information contained in the truck’s black box is very important. It is something that only experts hired by your truck accident attorney should do. The black box itself can be in different areas of the truck.

Because the information on a black box can be recorded over, it is important to send the trucking company a preservation letter or spoilation letter immediately after the crash. An experienced Michigan truck accident lawyer or law firm can do this for you. This letter mandates the trucking company preserve the black box and all the data it contains. This data can then be used by your lawyer to help prove liability on the part of the trucking driver and trucking company. 

Although a trucking company or commercial truck carrier may have to preserve the EDR data, they won’t just hand over its contents. Usually, after a lawsuit is filed, the attorney for the injured person and his or her family will have to formally request the black box. Sometimes, a motion to compel is necessarily asking the judge to order the trucking company to hand over the black box information.

Properly obtaining the black box data is vital. Downloading its contents is not simple. A Michigan truck accident lawyer who has obtained this information in the past will hire an experienced truck accident investigator to assist in the download process. The way the information is downloaded can make the difference in obtaining key evidence or the judge dismissing your case.

Once this data is downloaded properly, the investigator and accident reconstruction expert can help analyze and evaluate the data to make a compelling and strong case for the plaintiff. 

Talk to Our Michigan Truck Accident Lawyers

At the Lee Steinberg Law Firm, our truck accident lawyers have acquired black box data in many cases over the years and used it to determine that drivers were speeding or violating a safety rule. Call us toll-free at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733) so we can answer any of your questions and get started on your case.