All commercial trucks are now required to install electronic logging devices (ELDs), often referred to as black boxes, that record driving data and driving habits.
Black Boxes in the Trucking Industry
A black box is a small recording device installed in a large commercial truck or 18-wheeler that documents information about the trucks movement over time. A black box can refer to two different types of devices in a truck: an electronic logging device (ELD) or an event data recorder (EDR). Both types are capable of recording certain movements of a truck that can be important in an accident. Sensors installed in the truck can include the following data:
- The truck’s route
- Travel time from one place to another
- Length of a trip – driving distance
- Truck speed
- Hours of service
- Breaks and rest stops
Sensors are sensitive enough to record data indicating steering changes, braking patterns, and seat belt use, factors commonly associated with trucking accidents. Black boxes in the trucking industry are often used to determine fault in an accident to prove claims, since data can be loaded within 5 to 10 seconds prior to a collision. This data can be downloaded by law enforcement, trucking companies, and truck injury lawyers who handle trucking accident claims.
Truck manufacturers began installing EDRs in commercial trucks to defeat warranty claims. Most trucks manufactured since the 1990s have a black box integrated into their engine components. These devices store data about the physical properties of the truck, in case the truck is involved in an accident or near accident. Over the years, advances in technology have allowed updates in black boxes that provide many more benefits to the trucking industry who manage fleets, as well as individual drivers.
In 2015, The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA) passed a rule mandating ELDs in all commercial trucks manufactured after the year 2000. The federal mandate was implemented to create a standard tracking system for recording a driver’s hours of service. This was done to reduce trucking accidents in the United States often caused by driver fatigue. Although the FMCSA mandate required all ELDs to be installed by 2019, it did not require the replacement or use of EDRs in older model trucks.
Benefits of Black Boxes
The basic purpose of a black box in a commercial truck is to provide trucking companies with information on drivers, shipments, and deliveries. This creates a more efficient and productive operation, especially when fleets and long-haul loads are involved. However, black boxes are providing other important benefits to the trucking industry.
Reducing Trucking Accidents
EDLs and EDRs are capable of recording a lot of useful data that can help to reduce trucking accidents and injuries. Although ELDs have newer technology, both devices record important information.
Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs)
ELDs ensure compliance with federally mandated Hours of Service and Records of Duty Status. ELDs record hourly driving information when a truck is in use. Any time there is a change in hours of service or duty status, ELDs automatically record the date, time, location, engine hours, vehicle miles, and identifying info for the driver and carrier. Preventable accidents may be avoided by ensuring truck drivers are resting after so many hours in the truck.
Event Data Recorders (EDRs)
EDRs can record a variety of information including: times the truck was in operation and out of service; when the truck started and stopped; arrival and departure times from destinations; minimum and maximum speeds; if brakes were applied during a crash; and when cruise control was on or off. Newer model EDRs store data from critical events, like a crash, for several minutes, before and at least 30 seconds after an accident occurs.
Paid by the Mile
Before ELDs were mandated in commercial trucks, many truck drivers kept paper logs of their hours of service. Unfortunately, logs did not always reflect accurate driving times. Truckers who were paid by the mile often logged in more miles on the road to increase their wages. This practice contributed to many trucking accidents seen by truck injury attorneys that were caused by drowsing driving and fatigue. Mandated ELDs in all commercial trucks have eliminated paper logs and the possibility of cheating on hours of service.
In 2019, trucking fatalities reached their highest numbers in 30 years. In 2018, 885 truck drivers and 4,678 occupants in passenger vehicles died in truck-related crashes. When a large commercial truck is involved in a crash, fatalities are common due to the size and weight of the truck. Fully loaded trucks can weigh as much as 10,000 pounds. At speeds of 55 mph, fully loaded trucks and 18-wheelers often roll over in a crash, leaving few or no survivors behind. The trucking industry is counting on black boxes to help in the prevention of fatal crashes.