blog home Truck Accidents What Is a Tractor Trailer’s So-Called “Black Box”?

What Is a Tractor Trailer’s So-Called “Black Box”?

By Butler Prather LLP on January 5, 2024

Whenever an airplane crashes, you will hear reports in the media about efforts to recover the plane’s flight recorder, which is commonly referred to as the “black box.” A flight recorder contains crucial information about how the plane was operating at the time of the crash, and investigators use the flight recorder data to help determine what caused the crash.

Like airplanes, big rig trucks also have a device that can be used to provide important information about how the truck is operating. A key difference between trucks and planes is that a truck’s so-called black box belongs to the trucking company. It’s important to find a Savannah truck accident lawyer who knows how to secure the information from the truck’s black box right away. Otherwise, the information it contains could be lost or destroyed.

Information Recorded by a Truck’s Black Box

Trucks built since the late 1990s contain a device that’s frequently referred to as a black box. A black box is a small computer chip called an event data recorder (EDR) that collects and stores information regarding various aspects of a truck’s operations.

EDRs were originally designed to provide warranty information for truck manufacturers. Trucking companies that wish to monitor the location and performance of their drivers may choose to program an EDR to increase and customize the types of data it provides.

An EDR may be activated by sudden braking or steering wheel movements. It contains valuable information about how the truck was operated when the crash occurred, including decisions made by the driver before, during, and after the event.

Information about the crash event that an EDR may record includes:

  • Speed
  • Acceleration
  • Deceleration
  • Braking
  • Swerving
  • Airbag deployment
  • Seatbelt tensioner activation
  • Clutch application
  • Vehicle roll angle
  • Cruise control engagement
  • GPS location
  • Tire pressure

Securing Black Box Information After an Accident

Although the information collected by the truck’s EDR belongs to the company that owns the truck, they don’t have the right to destroy it. The laws vary from state to state regarding a defendant’s responsibility to preserve black evidence after a crash.

Spoilation of evidence is a legal term that refers to the destruction or failure to preserve evidence that is relevant to a contemplated or pending litigation. If you were injured in an accident involving a big rig truck, don’t hesitate to contact an attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can issue a data preservation letter preventing the trucking company from destroying evidence contained in the EDR.

In some cases, simply driving the truck can cause the erasure of ERD information, so your attorney may request that the truck be towed to a site where it can be fully inspected.

Your Savannah Truck Accident Lawyer Can Retrieve Black Box Evidence

After taking legal action to ensure the information from the truck’s EDR is preserved, your attorney can retrieve this information. This process requires a significant level of technical expertise.

Information retrieved from the EDR can be used to counter the defendant’s account of how the crash occurred. For example, determining that the trucker swerved suddenly or failed to engage the brakes in a timely may help establish driver negligence.

The EDR may contain information about recent truck maintenance and how it was functioning at the time of the accident. It might reveal if the trucking company failed to make necessary safety repairs.

An EDR can also provide information about the truck’s recent driving history. It might provide evidence that the driver was fatigued because they violated federal hours of service (HOS) regulations.

Were You Injured by a Careless Truck Driver?

If you or a loved one is suffering from severe injuries caused by an unsafe trucker or a negligent trucking company, contact Butler Prather LLP. We will investigate the accident and file a claim or lawsuit against anyone whose negligent behavior contributed to your injuries.

At Butler Prather LLP, we’ve been helping accident victims for over 35 years. Our Savannah firm has won hundreds of millions of dollars for clients in over 30 states, including nine verdicts that exceed $100 million and more than 60 verdicts and settlements of over $10 million.

Our attorneys have been recognized by Super Lawyers, an independent rating agency comprised of outstanding lawyers who have demonstrated a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.

Call (706) 322-1990 to schedule a complimentary consultation today.

Posted in: Truck Accidents

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