The Law Firm of Leisawitz Heller

What is an ECM and how can it help prove truck driver fatigue?

Not everyone in Berks County probably knows that many of the semi-trucks on the roads today carry a device that records data about the operation of the truck. These devices are called Electronic Control Modules, and they have been a feature of most trucks manufactured since the 1990s. They are similar in operation to flight data recorders on airplanes. ECMs record data such as overall average speed, highest speed, time driven, average revolutions per minute, amount of time driving above 65 miles per hour, idling time and seat belt usage.

These kinds of data could be valuable to plaintiffs involved in a truck accident. For example, if a driver was violating hours of service rules, data revealing this might be recoverable from an ECM. A truck accident victim could use this data to try to prove that the truck driver was affected by truck driver fatigue at the time of an accident. If a driver frequently exceeded the speed limit, this could be revealed by ECM data as well.

ECMs have one other thing in common with flight data recorders: they have a limited amount of memory to record data. Most units will erase data that is more than 30 days old. Some older units have an even shorter retention time. This means that a victim of a truck accident -- or their family -- will want to take swift action after an accident to make sure this data is preserved.

An attorney for a truck accident victim can do a number of things to preserve this data. They can file a protective order or take other steps to ensure that the data is not deleted. They can also seek a court order preventing the entity with custody of the vehicle from moving it before the data can be captured. There are many other steps a truck accident attorney can take to preserve data and collect evidence.

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