We’ve all heard about airplane “black boxes.” They contain vital information that can provide explanations for why planes have crashed.

But did you know most semi trucks also have black boxes onboard? A “black box” is also called the Electronic Control Module (ECM). Since the 1990s, most U.S. trucks have been manufactured with ECMs included.

ECMs can record:

  • Average speed
  • Highest speed
  • Time driven
  • Time spent driving more than 65 miles per hour
  • Seat belt use
  • Airbag performance

Originally, ECMs were installed so truck engine manufacturers could determine the validity of truck operator warranty claims. The ECM data can reveal whether bad driving causes engine failures.

Valuable tool for truck accident investigation

ECM data also can be extremely valuable when investigating truck accidents. For example, accident investigators can learn how fast a truck was moving at the time of a crash, plus the RPMs and if or when brakes were applied.

In addition, the ECM information can be compared against driver logs to determine whether the driver was accurately recording the amount of time on the road.

But there are problems with ECMs.

Data can be overwritten or destroyed

ECMs have limited storage capacity. When that space is used up, new data is stored and the oldest data is erased. It’s also possible – and common – for truck operators or trucking companies to erase or damage data after a crash.

As soon as a major truck accident occurs, the trucking company and/or its insurance company’s investigators immediately travel to the accident scene. Sometimes their objective is to get rid of or obscure information that would be damaging in a lawsuit.

That’s why it’s crucial for truck accident victims (or their family members) to contact an experienced truck accident lawyer immediately after a crash. The attorney will begin an investigation. The attorney will promptly file legal documents that demand the preservation of data regarding the truck.

Do you have questions?

If you would like to learn more, contact an attorney who has experience litigating truck accidents.