Electronic Control Module ECM or Black Box Advantage in Truck Accidents
Ask Jim Ronca, Truck Accident Lawyer, Pennsylvania
Electronic Control Module (ECM) or Black Box Advantages in Truck Accidents
Since the mid-1990s, most trucks manufactured in North American began to have, built into the engine, an electronic control module, commonly referred to as a black box. These are not a black box similar to the type in airplanes. The black box in a commercial airplane is designed to specifically capture data before a crash which helps the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) understand why a plane crash occurred.
Electronic control modules, or ECMs, in trucks were created to monitor truck’s usage in the event that the trucking company made a warranty claim because, for example, the engine wore out too soon. What the manufacturer wants to know is, for example, how fast the truck was driven; how high the engine RPMs was; and whether the truck was being misused.
These black box devices can capture important information related to crashes. A truck’s electronic control module can capture information over a period of time (usually 30 days) regarding the truck’s overall average speed, highest speed, amount of time driving over 65 mph, RPMs, amount of time idling, and so forth.
If fatigue is a factor in a truck driving lawsuit case
and the driver’s log shows that he was not overdriving his hours of service; the information kept in the ECM might show that, in fact, he was driving many more hours than he wrote in his driver logs.
In addition, most ECMs retain information regarding hard stops. In other words, if there is a strong or panic stop by the driver, the ECM will record several different types of information regarding that stop, starting five seconds before the stop and lasting until two seconds afterward. It will record the speed beforehand; when the braking started; how quickly the truck braked; what the RPMs were; and more.
“If this information can be obtained, it’s very helpful in proving a lawsuit case”, said Jim Ronca, Pennsylvania truck lawyer. “This information has to be downloaded sooner vs. later because ECMs do not have much memory capability.”
Whenever limits of the recording capability are reached, the ECM will erase the old information and replace it with new information. That is a primary reason why it’s so important to notify the trucking companies early to retain the information or to try to get a download before the truck goes into another two or three hard stops, resulting in the information being erased.
Contact Jim Ronca, Pennsylvania truck lawyer now about a possible truck accident lawyer.
Additionally, some trucking companies have a computer-type module inside the truck used mostly for dispatching purposes, but it could also be used for hours of service logs, and also may retain information about how the truck was operated. Some companies, like UPS, download this information each time the truck comes into the yard to pick up a new load.
This information is always helpful in understanding how a collision occurred. Sometimes there is no ECM available from the truck actually involved in the collision. However, there may be other trucks which were around the collision and the information from the ECM from those trucks could be useful.
For example, in a case where a truck crashed into stopped cars in a construction zone, the truck immediately behind the truck which crashed into the cars had an ECM and Jim Ronca, truck accident lawyer, was able to obtain that information. The information in the black box showed how that driver was able to come to an easy and controlled stop without risking anyone, whereas the driver of the defendant’s truck crashed and caused the tragic death to a mother of two children.