Airplanes have had “black boxes” for decades. These devices, which contain important data about the flight, controls, and crew communications, are built to withstand very high impact so that they can be recovered after a crash. Analyzing the information in the black box can mean the difference between an unsolved mystery and an understood accident.
Most people don’t realize it, but many automakers have been adding their own black boxes to cars for years. They are especially likely to be in commercial vehicles like semi-trucks. After a truck accident, these devices can be invaluable in proving liability for the crash, but getting access to the unaltered data isn’t always easy.
Commercial Trucks Are Required to Have These Devices
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration mandates that all commercial trucks be outfitted with electronic logging devices (ELDs), which is the official term for the automotive “black box.” Although it often takes an expert to make sense of the information, ELDs contain a treasure trove of data, including:
- The number of consecutive hours a truck driver has been driving the vehicle
- The average speeds of the truck
- Whether the driver has been using cruise control
- The time of the crash and how fast the vehicle was traveling at that moment
- Whether the driver attempted to brake prior to the crash
- Whether the driver was wearing a seatbelt
- Whether the truck’s air bags deployed
How This Information Could Be Useful
The data collected by the ELD could be used to refute a truck driver’s claims that he was awake, alert and driving responsibly at the time of the crash. Here are just a few examples:
- A high number of consecutive driving hours could show that a truck driver was likely fatigued prior to the crash (and could indicate violations of hours-of-service rules)
- No attempt to brake before the crash could indicate that the driver was either asleep or distracted and didn’t see an obvious danger ahead
- Average speeds and speed before the crash could demonstrate a pattern of reckless driving behavior
- If data showed that the truck driver often fails to wear a seatbelt, it would suggest apathy toward safety rules and regulations and a tendency to cut corners
These are just some of the many ways that ELD data could tell a strong story about the driver’s actions and behavioral patterns leading up to the crash.
What If You Have Trouble Accessing ELD Data?
Information from ELDs is often transferred back to the company that owns the truck. Most of the time, this is appropriate. However, after a crash, a trucking company might have both motive and opportunity to alter or erase the data.
Discuss Your Case with an Attorney
If you’ve been involved in a truck accident, it is critical to seek the help of a lawyer immediately to minimize the chances that the data will be erased or altered. Acting quickly will limit the trucking company’s opportunity to do so. A skilled truck accident lawyer, like a Virginia truck accident lawyer, will often offer free initial consultations to truck accident victims. Call an attorney today to learn more. Thanks to Martin Wren, P.C. for their insight into how commercial truck black box information could help your truck accident case.