Electronic Control Module (ECM), commonly referred to as a black box can mean the difference between winning a case or losing it for lack of evidence.
Drivers of big trucks do not have the same maneuverability or quick response time that is available to drivers of the smaller four wheel passenger vehicles. Drivers of the smaller vehicles will not be aware of the capabilities; or lack of them, of the driver of the large vehicle in stopping or turning and will cut the larger truck off or zip in and out of traffic causing evasive action on the part of the truck driver. Evasive action often times will fall short of what actions are needed due to the weight, length, physical capabilities and inertial forces involved with a 40 ton vehicle over 70 feet in length in many cases. With highway speed of 55 mph, air brake response time will be up to one half second after driver response time which equates to the truck having traveled 32 feet before the brakes will have activated. Should your vehicle be within that 32 feet you could be involved in an accident.
Having the information stored within an Electronic Control Module installed in the cab of the big truck is vital. Different types of information is available and in case of an accident will be a record of what transpired just seconds prior and just seconds after a hard or panic stop. Some black boxes will record video as well as the speed of the truck before the incident, when the driver began braking, response time of the vehicle, diesel engine RPMs and more depending on the unit installed.
Road conditions play an additional role, it is possible for the ECM to show if the driver involved was driving according to weather, construction or rush hour traffic congestion conditions. When witness recall degrades into he said/ she said, it is necessary to have the irrefutable testimony of an unblinking impartial third party to sway the outcome of the argument in your favor. It would be highly recommended that you obtain the data as soon as possible after the accident and it may require hiring a lawyer to contact the trucking firm because if you do not ask for the information, the trucking company is under no obligation to provide it.
There are some limitations on these recording devices. One of the limits of an ECM is that the recording media is constantly being overwritten. Each successive hard braking incident not resulting in an accident will be recorded into memory. Depending on the unit installed, there may only be enough memory to record as few as three or four hard brakes. If you are involved in an accident with a big truck, you need to take steps to insure ECM data is collected as soon after the accident as possible to avoid both the repair of the vehicle or the loss of the information contained in the box. Another limit is where the eye of the installed box is pointed, if the ECM is facing forward and the accident happens to either side of the vehicle, data may be incomplete. Incomplete or not, the black box is essential to providing your insurance company with the ammunition they need to successfully argue for you to win the case.
The ECM data used in conjuction with the on board computer telecommunication devices and/or Global Positioning System (GPS) and drivers logbook can give a more accurate picture of what actually took place, how long the vehicle had been on the road and exactly where the accident took place, giving you peace of mind in a potentially volatile and stressful situation.