The Need for On-Board Computers and Black Boxes for Heavy Trucks

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"Black boxes," commonly known as electronic data recorders (EDRs) or electronic on-board recording devices (EOBRs), are capable of recording and keeping safe all data regarding the events surrounding an automobile crash, including seatbelt use, vehicle speed before the crash, deceleration rates, and vehicle trajectory before, during, and after the crash. In 18-wheelers, they also have the capability of recording data regarding the driver's hours of service, a truck's total driving time, total driving distance, trip driving time, trip distance, average driving speed, and maximum recorded speed.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration-a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation-called for "black boxes" with the capability to monitor the hours of service of a trucker to be installed in all heavy trucks. According to an article in the USA Today, this has divided the trucking industry into two factions. In support of this measure are the American Trucking Association (the nation's largest trade association for the trucking industry), the auto club AAA, and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (a non-profit group composed of local, state and federal trucking safety officers and industry representatives). They argue that the recorders cut down on hours-of-service violations make it less burdensome to do paperwork, and the drivers thereby have fewer violations and comply with federal rules more effectively. Opposing the measure is the 150-member Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association. It argues that the devices will invade drivers' privacy, will not increase accuracy of record-keeping and will heap an unnecessary expense on thousands of small-business owners who drive trucks.

A victim of a trucking crash would likely benefit greatly from a black box on board of the 18-wheeler from which he or she suffered injuries. The black boxes could contain data suggesting the driver was fatigued at the time of the collision, and fatigue is the number one cause of trucking accidents. Furthermore, the driver's awareness that there is a recording device in his or her truck would likely reduce the tendency to violate the federal regulations limiting the number of hours the driver may operate a commercial vehicle at a given time, thereby reducing fatigue.

Benny Agosto, Jr. is a partner at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend in Houston, Texas. For over 65 years, Abraham Watkins has successfully represented injured people and families who fall victim to catastrophes. Our attorneys have the knowledge, experience and resources necessary to obtain just compensation their clients. For more information, please contact the office of Benny Agosto, Jr. at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend, by letter at 800 Commerce Street, Houston, Texas 77002, or by phone at (713) 222-7211.

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