Do Tractor Trailers Have a Black Box?

Apr 13, 2023 | Auto Accidents

Tractor Trailer Black Box | Truck Accident Lawyer Geoff McDonald & Associates

One of the first orders or business after a truck crash is to request access to the tractor trailer’s black box. Black boxes often contain critical evidence that can help establish the facts of the accident and support your claim.

However, the law requires trucking companies to keep black box data for only six months, after which a company is allowed to destroy it. 

If you need help retrieving black box data, contact the legal team at Geoff McDonald & Associates with offices in Richmond and Virginia Beach, VA. 

What Is a Tractor Trailer Black Box?

“Black box” is an umbrella term for a wide array of computer systems that monitor and record the status of commercial trucks and the behavior of truck drivers. Some black boxes record non-stop, while others only record when they detect an accident.

Types of black boxes include:

  • Electronic Control Modules (ECMs): ECMs monitor vehicle and engine performance, including transmission function, traction control, engine speed, fuel injection timing, anti-lock brake systems, tire pressure, transmission temperature, emissions, and battery information.
  • Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs): ELDs monitor driver service hours by recording data about movement, engine function, and distance traveled. 
  • Event Data Recorders (EDRs): EDRs are what many people think of when they hear “black box.” These systems monitor and record vehicle data in the moments before an accident or a near-miss. That includes information about the truck’s speed, clutch engagement, wheel turning, sudden braking or deceleration, airbag deployment, seat belt tensioner activation, cruise control status, and more.

Do Semi-Trucks Have a Black Box?

Many commercial trucks today have black boxes. Truck manufacturers first started using ECMs over twenty years ago to better handle warranty claims. As a result, most truck models manufactured since the 1990s come with an ECM as part of their standard engine components.

Federal law has also required commercial truck

s to have ELDs since 2017, to ensure compliance with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) hours-of-service regulations.

In addition, many trucking companies now use satellite tracking or trip recorders to monitor their vehicles.

Why Black Boxes Matter in Truck Accident Cases

Black boxes, and EDRs in particular, often contain critical data about truck accidents. EDRs usually store around 30 days’ worth of recordings, including:

  • Truck speed
  • Speed limits
  • Driving time
  • Brake usage
  • Seatbelt use
  • Airbag deployment

This information can be critical to establishing the facts of the case and supporting a claim. However, you must act quickly. Federal law only requires trucking companies to keep black box data for six months from the date of the accident. After that, the trucking company may destroy potentially incriminating evidence.

Retrieving Tractor Trailer Black Box Data

To protect and retrieve black box data and other important information, at Geoff McDonald & Associates, we immediately send preservation letters to:

  • The trucking company
  • All potential defendants
  • Other individuals who may possess critical evidence

Preservation letters inform the recipients that they are under a legal duty to preserve potential evidence. A preservation letter can also help in case evidence goes missing at a later date.

Our truck accident lawyers then write a separate letter to the trucking and insurance companies to request black box data.

If You’ve Been in a Truck Accident, You Must Act Fast

The trucking company may try to destroy tractor trailer black box data and other critical evidence. At Geoff McDonald & Associates, we can make sure that doesn’t happen, and help when it does. 

Call us or fill out our contact form to book a free consultation with our Virginia truck accident attorneys.

Geoff McDonald and Associates: 804-888-8888.


No Fees Unless We Win

    How Trucking Safety Regulations May Influence Your Case in Virginia

    Virginia truck drivers and commercial trucking company owners must observe certain state and federal safety rules. As an accident victim, showing that the liable party violated one of these laws can reinforce your case and help you claim compensation. Let’s examine a...

    Why Drinking, Drugs and Driving are a Dangerous Combination

    Do you want to be the cause of a senseless tragedy? Each year, countless lives are lost because people decide to drink or drug and drive. It’s an irresponsible act that recklessly endangers not only your life, but also those of innocent bystanders. Whether you’re a...

    What Are the Most Dangerous Intersections in Richmond, Virginia?

    According to Virginia’s car crash map, over 5,700 vehicle accidents occurred in Richmond, VA, in 2022. While a car accident can happen anywhere, some intersections in Richmond are notorious for their high number of crashes. So which intersections in Richmond pose the...

    What Is the Statute of Limitations After a Virginia Truck Accident?

    Did you suffer injuries in a Virginia truck accident? You may be able to sue the truck driver or the trucking company, but you must file your claim within a specified time limit called the statute of limitations. Virginia courts enforce this deadline very strictly and...

    Who Is Liable for a Blind Spot Injury in Virginia?

    Navigating vehicle blind spots during busy traffic hours or intense highway merging can result in dangerous accidents. You can’t see all areas surrounding your car, and other drivers can’t always see you. So, who is liable for a blind spot injury in Virginia?...

    Our Case Results

    Industrial Plant Accident

    Attorneys for the Plaintiff: Jeffrey A. Breit and Justin M. Sheldon Our client was killed in an industrial accident when an unauthorized worker was operating an overhead crane and pinned our client between…

    Rear-End Crash

    Our client suffered a traumatic brain injury, facial trauma, a dislocated hip and severe abdominal trauma when she was rear-ended at a traffic light by a tractor trailer. Suit was commenced shortly after…

    Assault of Log Truck Driver

    Attorneys for the Plaintiff: Geoffrey R. McDonald, Frank H. Hupfl, Justin M. Sheldon.
    Our client suffered a traumatic brain injury after being assaulted and knocked to the ground while fueling his logging…

    Drunk Driving Crash

    Our client suffered neck/head trauma and a broken wrist after his vehicle was struck by a drunk driver while he was stopped at a traffic light. Upon rejection of a settlement offer of $325,000, our litigation…

    Rear-End Collision

    Attorneys for the Plaintiff: Justin M. Sheldon and Geoff R. McDonald, Richmond
    GMA’s client was injured as a result of a rear-end collision in the greater Richmond area. The crash occurred a little after…

    Client Reviews

    Cheryl and Rich were wonderful and patient with me throughout the case. All of my questions were answered. They really helped me through this tough time and made sure to let me know what was going on. I really thank Geoff…

    Troy Saxby

    My experience with GMA staff was first rate. They always represented in a professional way and made sure I had everything as far as paperwork. Kara and Theo made sure to answer all my questions, was always available and so…

    Shirley Brown

    Geoff McDonald & Associates is the team that you want on the field if you’re in need of top notch legal defense! Mr. Taj Henley demonstrated true customer service skills and his expertise made me feel comfortable throughout the…

    Julian Reeves

    Geoff McDonald & Associates: Thank you Taj Henley for all of your hard work and dedication! Very expeditious in my case and I was very satisfied with my settlement. Will recommend to all my friends and family!

    Shareema Williams

    Geoff is number one in my book and I especially appreciate the support of Mr Henley

    Ebony Conwell

    I was so pleased with the knowledge and support from Mr. Taj Henley

    Kideem Frierson

    Thank you Geoff McDonald &Associates. A special thank you to Mr. Taj Henley

    Denise Conwell

    Mr. Taj Henley displays exceptional professionalism for Geoff McDonald & Associates, along with commendable communication skills and customer service. By his work ethic and commitment to the people he serves his value to any…

    Justin Fitzgerald