Semi-trucks are not required to be equipped with event data recorders or “black boxes.” Still, many trucks are, and these instruments can be useful in a subsequent investigation should the semi-truck be involved in a collision with another vehicle.
What does a black box record?
The capacities of black boxes vary based on the brand. All of them record information, but in different ways.
Some black boxes start recording only when something sets off a potential crash situation. For example, it may start recording if the driver suddenly accelerates, suddenly brakes or sharply turns the steering wheel.
Other black boxes record during the entire course of the semi-truck’s movement, but it does so on a loop. This means only the last several minutes of recorded information can be collected.
Some black boxes have a greater functional capacity and can record hours or even days of information.
How can black box data be used?
No matter what is recorded, black box data can be very useful in an investigation. The information stored in a black box can help reveal what happened in the minutes or hours preceding the crash.
For example, information stored in a black box could show whether:
- The truck was following the speed limit,
- The truck tried to brake prior to the crash, or
- The truck was swerving prior to the collision
Black boxes can also record other valuable information, such as how long the driver had been operating the vehicle or if the driver was speeding the majority of the time on the road. These acts could indicate drowsiness or recklessness on the part of the driver.
The information stored in a black box can either buttress or call into question the testimony of the driver and other witnesses, even a crash reconstructionist.
Are black boxes valuable to employers?
Even truck companies benefit from the use of black boxes. Black boxes can provide employers with a lot of information about how the driver is operating the semi-truck, which could impact their job performance.
Still, if a truck crash occurs, a truck company may initially refuse to turn over information contained in the black box. An attorney can make verbal and written requests for this information to ensure it is not destroyed. Once a lawsuit is filed, the information stored in the black box can be obtained through the discovery process or a subpoena.