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Is There a “Black Box” That Gathers Evidence in Trucking Accidents?

In news media after an aviation accident, reporters and journalist often refer to a “black box.” In an airplane, this black box gathers information about a flight and after an accident becomes a crucial piece of evidence for investigators. While most people associate the black box with aviation incidents, most commercial trucks have similar pieces of evidence.

Many trucks that have been made in the US since the 1990s have a device incorporated into their engine. Called the Electronic Control Module (ECM), this device is similar to the device placed on planes and is in fact also called a “black box.” For attorneys investigating a trucking accident, ECMs contain plenty of useful information, since these devices continuously gather information while a truck is in operation.

Over a period of thirty days or so, these devices gather information about time driven, highest speeds driven, average overall speeds a truck has attained, seat belt use, idling times, air bag use, the average revolutions per minute (RPMs) of the tires, and other pertinent information. For Florida personal injury attorneys, ECMs can be vital in determining negligence on the part of drivers, truck manufacturer’s and truck owners.

Originally, ECMs were designed to protect truck manufacturers from bogus warranty claims made by owners. The devices were meant to show any evidence of driver or owner abuse, so that manufacturers could protect themselves against claims of product defects. Now, however, ECMs are often used by victims who have sustained personal injuries as a result of trucking accidents. Attorneys can use the information in ECMs to compare against a driver’s account of events.

After a trucking accident, it is important to quickly secure an ECM and its information. ECMs only record so much information. If a truck is driven after an accident, there is a risk that previous data will be erased and recorded over. Some states make the ECM information the property of a trucking company. This may mean that a trucking company can legally erase ECM data or even destroy an ECM after an accident. In states with such laws, it is important to get a court order to secure ECM data.

In addition to securing information from an ECM, there are other sources of information that attorneys can gather. Professional truck drivers must keep logs of distances traveled and trucking companies are expected to keep information about truck repairs and drivers hired. In addition, trucks must report to trucking weigh stations and data from these stations can often be gathered through court order. In addition, some trucking companies use a cab electronic module. This device records information about deliveries and dispatch and may contain information about a vehicle’s performance, maintenance, and number of hours on the road.