The Significance of Black Box Evidence in a Truck Accident

If you have ever followed airplane crash news, you probably have heard something to do with a black box. This is a piece of airplane equipment that helps investigators determine the cause of the accident and will, in most circumstances, contain the pilots’ last words and the plane’s operational data.

However, you may not have heard that commercial semi-trucks have similar equipment. This is often referred to as an Event Data Recorder (EDR) in the trucking industry. 

What Is a Commercial Truck’s Black Box?

A commercial truck black box or EDR is an event recording device installed on trucks and semi-trucks to record information preceding an accident. The black box is designed to be very durable such that it can withstand fire, violent crash, submersion, or even an explosion. This allows it to keep the data safe irrespective of the magnitude of a crash.

Vehicle black boxes come in different types. Some collect data continually, while some are only activated when an accident or a near-miss occurs, for example, if a driver slams on the brakes suddenly or serves sharply.  

Besides recording information of the vehicle operation at the time of the accident, most EDR devices transmit the data to the trucking company. Sometimes the transmission may be done to a third party mandated to manage the company’s data.

Type of Evidence Recorded by The Black Box

Black box data is critical to personal injury lawyers when building a case. Some of the evidence recovered from a truck’s black box includes the driver’s service hours, the speed at the time of the accident, acceleration and deceleration, braking, swerving, and the vehicle’s GPS location. Depending on the device installed, it may also record whether the airbags deployed, tire pressure, and engine revolutions per minute.

If the information in the data indicates speeding at the time of that accident, your lawyer can use the evidence to prove negligence. In the same way, if the information does not show braking, it may be used by your injury lawyer to show that the driver was probably distracted and thus didn’t see the other vehicle or a pedestrian that was involved in an accident. Data showing that the driver was driving beyond the legal service hour limit proves a violation of commercial vehicle operation guidelines and can prove negligence on the part of the trucking company.

Evidence Preservation

Trucking companies own their fleet’s black box data and can choose to keep it or delete it. However, there are legal channels that personal injury lawyers can explore to access the data. Even when they may not get immediate access to the data, attorneys can serve the involved party with a spoliation letter requiring them to preserve all evidence relating to the accident, including black box data. 

Failure to preserve evidence after a spoliation letter constitutes a crime that could significantly impact the trucking company’s case. It is important to serve the trucking company with the spoliation letter, on time. Often, black box data is set to self-destruct after 30 days, and the trucking company may not be obligated to keep it for long, especially if they were not aware of the accident.