What is the Truck’s Black Box and How Can It Be Used as Evidence?

Accidents involving large commercial trucks in the state of Oregon often result in significant injuries and major property damage. In the aftermath of these incidents, it is crucial that victims are able to recover compensation for their losses. Recovering compensation in these circumstances involves gathering various types of evidence, including the truck’s “black box.”

What is a Truck’s Electronic Control Module (ECM)?

Some people may not realize this, but every modern vehicle on the roadway has a type of recording device inside. These devices do not record for long periods of time, sometimes for just a few seconds at a time. These devices essentially take snapshots of what is going on with the vehicle if an incident occurs. Usually, an “incident” refers to a vehicle accident.

Large commercial trucks certainly have recording devices, but these are more extensive and are referred to as the truck’s electronic control module (ECM). We will also see these occasionally referred to as an event data recorder (EDR).

In addition to the electronic control module in the truck, commercial truck drivers also have an electronic logging device (ELD) that keeps track of how many hours they operate during the day and during a workweek. These electronic logging devices store information that could be critical in the aftermath of a vehicle accident.

What is Stored on a Truck’s Electronic Control Module?

There will be a wide variety of data stored on an ECM in a large commercial truck. This information usually pertains to various vehicle diagnostics, the most recent trips the truck has been on, and what is going on with the vehicle before an incident occurs. This can include a crash or a near-crash incident. The data recorded on the ECM will vary depending on the specific manufacturer of the truck or the recording device. However, there are some commonalities that we typically find on all these devices:

  • The vehicle apostrophe’s speed right before a crash occurs
  • How often the truck traveled above a pre-determined speed
  • Daily, weekly, or monthly activity reports
  • If the airbag was deployed
  • Tire pressure
  • GPS location data
  • Whether there were any sudden decelerations or accelerations
  • Whether the brakes were applied and how soon they were applied before a crash
  • Whether the truck cruise control was engaged when an accident occurred
  • Whether or not the driver was wearing a seat belt
  • Communication between the truck company or dispatcher and the driver

Many trucking carriers across the country, including some here in Oregon, have installed cameras on the outside and inside of the vehicle. Usually, these cameras have a separate storage device because of the amount of data they record.

If you or somebody you care about has been injured as a result of a crash involving a large commercial truck in Oregon, it is crucial to make sure that all evidence is gathered. This includes the data on the electronic logging device, the electronic control module, and any other data capturing device inside the commercial truck.

A skilled Portland truck accident lawyer can work to gather all this evidence quickly before it can be erased or discarded. An attorney will send a “letter of spoliation” to the truck driver and trucking company to ensure that all this evidence is maintained.