Your Well-Being Is Our Priority

What’s a truck’s “black box,” and why does it matter?

On Behalf of Bennerotte & Associates, P.A.

Jul 23, 2023

Truck/Semi Accidents

You’ve probably heard about the “black boxes” on airplanes that are designed to help investigators understand the cause of any crashes, but did you know that commercial vehicles also have them?

A “black box” is the common term for the Event Data Recorder (EDR) that’s part of a truck’s Engine Control Module (ECM). While not initially intended for use as part of crash reconstruction efforts, they’ve become a vital part of many truck accident investigations – for good reason.

What can a truck’s black box reveal?

The specific data recorded by a truck’s black box can vary according to its capabilities and the trucking company’s desires, but they commonly collect the following information:

  • Speed: The black box can record the truck’s speed at different points in time, which can help determine if the driver was exceeding the speed limit or driving at an unsafe speed for the weather conditions and road structure.
  • Acceleration and braking: It can measure the rate of acceleration and deceleration, giving insights into the truck driver’s behavior and whether sudden maneuvers were made immediately preceding the wreck.
  • Engine RPM: The black box can monitor the revolutions per minute (RPM) of the engine, which can indicate the vehicle’s performance and whether it was being pushed to its limits before a crash, indicating unsafe driving practices.
  • Seatbelt usage: Some black boxes are designed to detect seatbelt usage, providing information about whether the driver was actually restrained. If their seatbelt was off, that may indicate they were reaching for something in their cab and not paying attention to the road.
  • Brake usage: If you want to know if a driver applied their brakes and when the black box may offer some revelations. This is particularly important in distracted driving accidents.
  • Vehicle control inputs: The black box can even record data related to steering wheel movements, throttle position, brake pedal usage and other control inputs made by the driver. All of these pieces of information can help inform an investigation into a wreck.

If you’ve been involved in an accident with a big rig, you don’t need to be told how devastating the consequences can be on your life, your finances and your future. Trucking companies have plenty of legal guidance to rely on, so it’s wise for you to have the same.