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What Data Can Be Recovered From Black Box After a Big Rig Truck Accident?

Posted on March 7, 2022

Commercial trucks often have event data recorders (EDR), commonly referred to as a black box, containing data on a truck or tractor-trailer’s physical details and performance. After an accident with a large truck, retrieving the black box data is critical because it can ultimately help prove that a trucking company or their driver was negligent.

Can Black Box Data Identify Facts of a Truck Accident Case?

Black box data can provide important data and possibly the contributing factors which led to the collision. For example, it may contain:

  • The truck’s average driving speed
  • How frequently the truck is driven above a speed limit that is predetermined on the vehicle
  • The highest rate of speed during the trip
  • Daily or monthly engine activity that shows if the truck driver’s hours spent on the road exceeded federal regulations
  • Whether the clutch was engaged
  • Whether there was a sudden deceleration
  • Current throttle position (%)
  • Brake switch status (If and when the truck driver applied any brakes)
  • Steering angles
  • Tilt of the vehicle
  • Load factor
  • Engine oil pressure
  • Following distance
  • Force of impact
  • Airbag deployment times
  • If a seatbelt was engaged
  • Maintenance issues
  • Tire pressure, and additional information.

Black boxes typically record 30-day periods before writing over the information. Generally, the recorded data is transmitted to the trucking company or third-party company when the vehicle is involved in an auto accident.


How Can Black Box Data Impact a Truck Accident Claim?

Black box data can be crucial evidence of fault. Here are some examples. If the truck driver was speeding and didn’t apply the brakes at all before the accident occurred, it may indicate that they were distracted (e.g., using a cellphone, adjusting GPS, eating, etc.). When the engine activity proves that required rest breaks were not taken, that information could be used as evidence that the truck driver was driving while fatigued. Data demonstrating ongoing maintenance issues can show that the trucking company failed to inspect the vehicle. Any of these violations could potentially help you prove the driver or the trucking company’s negligence contributed to the collision, supporting your claim for compensation.

Securing Black Box Data

To recover a truck’s black box data after an accident will likely require the permission of the trucking company and/or their insurance company. This information is not likely to be handed over easily, especially if it contains evidence of fault. You will typically need an attorney to help you obtain a court order to access the data. Since that can take time, your attorney will send a spoliation letter first. This letter asks a trucking company and its insurer to preserve any evidence related to the collision and warns against destroying it. In some cases, data from the EDR (“black box”) or the driver’s logs (records of duty) can be destroyed. Therefore, action must be taken quickly.

Speak to a Truck Accident Attorney Today

If you or a loved one has recently been involved in a serious truck accident, our Philadelphia truck accident attorney can help. We have extensive experience obtaining and interpreting black box data. Call (215) 569-0200 for your free consultation today.