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What Every Driver Should Know about Semi-Truck “Black Boxes” [Part I]

January 12, 2016

If you are involved in a serious accident with a large commercial truck, certain types of evidence will be critical to proving negligent conduct by the commercial carrier, trucking company, independent maintenance company, or other parties. One of the most critical sources of evidence in most trucking accident lawsuits is the "event data recorder" (EDR), also referred to as the "black box." These data recorders are much like the black box on a commercial airline, so they can be used to determine events that occur immediately prior to a crash to facilitate analysis of its cause. Because the evidence obtained from an EDR typically has a significant impact on the outcome of a trucking accident claim, this two-part blog article answers common questions about this form of evidence in trucking cases.

What is a "black box"?

These devices record data from a motor vehicle prior to and/or during a collision. Law enforcement and regulatory investigators can download this information from the device's memory to assist in reconstructing the accident, evaluating the performance of safety equipment, and determining fault. Many EDRs record data transmitted by the engine control module pertaining to pre-crash speed, application of brakes, number of impacts, time between impacts, seat belt and air bag performance, speed during impact, and throttle position.

Are EDRs mandatory for large trucks?

Vehicles with a weight rating higher than 8,500 pounds are exempt from regulations promulgated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regarding EDRs. However, many commercial carriers install both data recorders and video inside a semi-truck because the trucking company can use this equipment to improve fuel efficiency, monitor excessive speeds, identify improper routes, defend against lawsuits, and monitor other misuse of fleet vehicles.

Some advanced EDRs are extremely sophisticated, capable of recording more detailed information. The NHTSA mandates that these technologically advanced recorders store data on driver steering input, activation of electronic stability control (ESC) systems, occupant size, occupant position, and engagement of antilock brakes.

Even when data recorders are not installed, many heavy trucks are equipped with engine recorders. The information recorded by these devices is not nearly as extensive as that recorded by an EDR, but the information can still be critical to a semi-truck accident claim. This more limited information typically includes engine fault codes, hard braking, and the last time the vehicle engine was switched off or the vehicle stopped.

Montlick and Associates - Legal Advocates for Truck Accident Victims For Over 39 Years

Contact Montlick and Associates to learn about your legal rights and remedies if you are injured in a Georgia trucking accident. Montlick and Associates has been representing those who suffer serious injuries throughout all of Georgia and in the Southeast for over thirty years, including, but not limited to, Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins, and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. We strive to be the best personal injury law firm in the United States. No matter where you are located, our attorneys are just a phone call away and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Truck Accidents

Please Note:
All information provided by our blogs is general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Consult a Montlick attorney for details about your unique situation.