Most of the semi-tractor trailers in Tennessee and around the country have devices known as Electronic Control Modules under their hoods. Truck manufacturers started fitting ECMs to their vehicles in the 1990s to weed out invalid warranty claims, but the data they record and store can also be of great use to crash investigators and personal injury attorneys seeking compensation for truck accident victims.
ECMs are often referred to as black boxes because they hold the same kind of information as aircraft data recorders. The information ECMs keep track of includes average speeds, maximum speeds, the amount of time trucks spent traveling in excess of 65 mph, how long trucks spent idling and whether or not commercial vehicle drivers used their safety belts. They also monitor how long trucks were used for, which can help investigators to find out if federal hours of service regulations were ignored. These rules limit how long truck drivers can spend behind the wheel between rest breaks.
When a truck has been involved in an accident, it is important to obtain the information stored on its ECM as soon as possible. This is because these devices have limited storage capacities and begin to record over stored data once this limit is reached. Acting quickly could also prevent trucking companies from erasing ECMs to remove potentially compromising information.
Experienced personal injury attorneys may urge truck accident victims to take action swiftly if negligence appears to have played a role. This could allow attorneys to file court petitions to preserve data that could prove crucial both at the negotiating table and in court. Attorneys could also gather evidence of recklessness by having commercial vehicles inspected for signs of lax maintenance or botched repairs and examining hours of service logs to determine whether or not truck drivers were fatigued when they crashed.