What is a Black Box and Why is it Important When a Truck Accident Occurs?

electronic control module dataCommercial trucks are involved in thousands of truck accidents every year. Due to the sheer volume and weight of these trucks, they can cause enormous amounts of damage to passenger cars, and passengers of those smaller vehicles are often left with serious injuries. Victims of truck accidents also bear the burden of proving that the driver of the truck did, in fact, act negligently.

The Black Box

Fortunately, most commercial trucks that were manufactured after the 1990s in the U.S. have what is referred to as an ECM, or the Electronic Control Module. While it is often referred to as the “black box” (like the black boxes in airplanes), it is actually much more than just a box. In fact, it is made of up sensors and other parts that are integrated into the components of the truck’s engine.

The black box is designed to capture a variety of data that pertains to the operations of the truck. Originally, ECMs were created by truck manufacturers to counter potential engine warranty claims that were invalid due to abuse by the purchaser or driver. The black box records the operational data of the truck for a period of time, which is typically 30 days.

Some of the data factors that the black box “remembers” includes:

  • Overall average speed of the truck
  • Highest speed of the truck
  • Number of hours the truck has been driven and when
  • Number of time the truck has driven over 65 mph
  • Average revolutions per minute (RPMs)
  • Seatbelt usage
  • Airbag performance
  • Amount of time the truck has idled
  • Number of hard stops the truck has made

More and more, the data from black boxes has been used to prove negligence on the truck driver’s part in the event of a truck accident. Because they provide data that is factual and pertaining to the operation of the truck, they have often proven causal factors of truck accidents, thereby proving that the truck driver was at fault.

How ECMs Could Prove Negligence

For example, the ECM could prove that the truck driver had been driving a long stretch of hours immediately before the accident (which could prove driver fatigue), as well as whether any hard stops happened prior to the accident and the speed of the truck right before the accident occurred. Because data is typically recorded for a period of 30 days, data in a black box can be destroyed, and additional data that could be crucial to a case is often downloaded from the ECM module by trucking companies, including delivery and dispatching information, it is imperative for truck accident victims to hire an experienced attorney quickly to ensure all of the possible evidence from a black box is kept intact.

If you were injured in a Pennsylvania truck accident, you should contact a Pennsylvania truck accident attorney as soon as you possibly can to ensure that all factual evidence pertaining to your case can be preserved. Contact the law offices of Solnick & Associates, LLC today at (877) 415-6495 for a free consultation.