Are Black Boxes Required in Commercial Trucks?


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Before the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration initiated a plan to ensure black boxes are required in all commercial trucks, this was not necessary. While many of these larger trucks did have hardware considered or similar to a black box, it was not a necessity by the trucking company.

With the implementation of the new requirement, all company commercial trucks will need to place a black box that records various instances of data and driving habits into these vehicles. These are referred to as ELDs or electronic logging devices. They are capable of logging hours someone drives over time.

A black box is a recorder that saves data that is input into the ELD through sensors in the vehicle. This usually includes instances of five to ten seconds before a collision with another truck or car. This data may be downloaded at the company or if law enforcement or lawyers need the information to determine who or what caused the incident. Various factors included in the accident may be determined through this data such as speed, brakes being used, steering changes and if a seat belt was applied. These boxes may prevent possible lawsuits to the trucking company when it may be proven that the truck driver is not at fault in the incident. Other factors may be used to protect the commercial truck operator and assist in compensation when needed from injury.

Benefits of Black Boxes

Commercial trucking companies may see several benefits of these ELDs being placed in the vehicles. This is usually found in safety and accident prevention, but other advantages such as ensuring drivers have enough sleep and rest between jobs may be available. Paperwork, costs of audits and long hours needed to record data is also removed from those that perform these duties due to the data being available through the ELDs. This may also provide greater accuracy for the drivers in logging their hours and being paid the appropriate amount for time working. This may be considered a downside for some of these vehicle operators as they cannot lie about the data and reduce violations when they are spending too much time on the road and not enough resting.

Paid by the Mile

Truckers have in the past kept multiple sets of log books to keep track of actual hours and hours they are showing they’ve been active on the road. This is to avoid violating laws and regulations that demand they rest after so many hours on the road or during the week. The other log book is kept to track the true miles and hours they’ve been driving to ensure they are paid appropriately for all the time they’ve spent. Because truckers are usually paid by the mile they travel, it is better to log more miles in travels to increase wages. However, the implementation of black boxes in all commercial trucks eliminates this practice. This means all miles are tracked and there is no cheating possible.

Reducing Traffic Collisions

There is an analysis of these devices that details how they may decrease the frequency that trucks are involved in collisions on the road. Preventable accidents may be avoided by ensuring these drivers are resting after so many hours in the truck. This means that tired and overworked vehicle operators may be a thing of the past. When the data is sent to the company office, management should be aware of who needs to take a break and who may still continue based on the time information available through the data link. This may also discover trends in driving habits to assist truckers in reducing their mistakes made and implement safety measures to improve the quality of the ride.

Provisions through the Implementation of Black Boxes

Privacy in what the driver is doing beyond the data collected is still respected. This means he or she is not being recorded by video or voice. He or she is not required to perform certain actions such as those in a call center where most interactions must be done in particular ways. Most of the data recorded is only available for review, investigation or inspections. This also means that the drivers are not harassed by a company or owner for certain information. The statistical data is usually only used to increase safety, prevent harm and improve the relationship between driver and commercial company as well as those on the road. However, sometimes a lawyer is needed when certain issues arise. It is best to contact a personal injury lawyer or one that has experience with recorded data to assist the driver in these situations.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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