Ep. 4 – Obtaining Truck Wreck Data

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

If they’re planning on taking any legal action, they have to do it right away because if the vehicles are impounded by the police, by the time they contact an attorney and the attorney relegates where the vehicles are, they’re already back on the road. So time is of the essence, especially with heavy trucks. So you need somebody that’s familiar with trucks, that understands what it’s like to drive a truck, what it’s like to examine brakes. Because it’s a total different beast as compared to a passenger car.

David W. Craig – Host:

Today we have Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen as our guest. Red is a certified accident reconstructionist with over 45 years of experience reconstructing crashes involving tractor trailers, cars, and motorcycles. He owns Crash Response LLC, which is headquartered out of Champaign, Illinois. He has extensive training in the retrieval and analysis of data from engines and airbag control modules. Specifically, he has the ability, the equipment, to download the electronic data recorders of semi tractor trailers and he has the expertise and knowledge on how to interpret that data. This is After The Crash.

David W. Craig – Host:

I’m attorney Dave Craig, managing partner and one of the founders of the law firm of Craig, Kelley & Faultless. I’ve represented people who have been seriously injured or who have had a family member killed in semi or other big truck wreck for over 30 years. Following the wreck, their lives are chaos. Often, they don’t even know enough about the process to ask the right questions. It is my goal to empower you by providing you with the information you need to protect yourself and your family.

David W. Craig – Host:

In each and every episode I will interview top experts and professionals that are involved in truck wreck cases. This is After The Crash. This is Dave Craig with After The Crash. Today we’re excited to have Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen as a guest. So, Red, you and I have had the opportunity to work together in the past and I know you’re an accident reconstructionist and it looked like you got your start original in the police department. Is that right?

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

Yes. Back in 1971 I started at the police department and they initially put me on the traffic unit and then a while later I was in the patrol division and then we ended up having an accident problem with way too many accidents so they started a Traffic Safety Unit, so I was on the Traffic Safety Unit for 11 years, and about half that time I was in charge of the Traffic Safety Unit and in my career on the police department I investigated probably 5,000 or 6,000 crashes and then when I was on the police department, for training, I went to all the schools at Northwestern University for accident investigation, technical accident investigation, accident reconstruction, computer applications programs and accident reconstruction.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

And then in 1989 I took a 16-hour exam. It was a two-day exam. It was a joint certificate from the Illinois Law Enforcement Officers Training Board and the Illinois Department of Transportation to get state certified as an accident reconstructionist. So I started working for an engineering firm part time when I wasn’t on duty for the police department back in 1983. And then when I retired as Deputy Chief of Police in 1991 and I went full time with the engineering firm, and then in October 1st of 2015 my wife and I both quit the engineering firm and started Crash Response LLC.

David W. Craig – Host:

I know, as you mentioned, you’re a certified accident reconstructionist, I think in 1989. But you’re also certified in crash data retrieval systems. Is that right?

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

That’s correct, sir.

David W. Craig – Host:

And that’s the topic we’re going to talk about today, because obviously accident reconstruction covers a huge area. But today we’re going to talk about obtaining data out of big tractor trailers, semis, as well as motor vehicles. Because when there’s a wreck, when there’s a semi wreck, a lot of folks don’t know that there’s data that can be obtained if you get in there quick enough. That data could be critical in helping you reconstruct these types of wrecks. So we want to spend some time talking about that. But I’m curious as to why accident reconstruction? What prompted you, as a police officer… Obviously you were busy doing that type of stuff, but why did you decide to become an accident reconstructionist?

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

As a police officer I liked helping people. And when I was on the patrol division, for example, you’d be arresting the same people again and again and they just postponed or they’d be released and they’d be back on the street. We’re dealing with them the next week again. It didn’t seem like I was making any headway. But I’ve always liked investigating accidents. Because if we go to a crash site, people are injured, they’re frightened. I can help take care of their injuries. I call for a wrecker to clean up the crash site. And when I’m done I can see I’ve accomplished something. I like helping motorists. Like, for example, when they’re stalled along the road or whatever. I like to meet people that have a smile on their face as compared to when I’m on patrol division and arresting somebody and they’re not happy with you.

When Do You Need a Truck Accident Reconstructionist?

David W. Craig – Host:

You’ve been doing forensic, what we call forensic work. You’ve been working for folks, been hired to figure out how these wrecks happened. Between semis and cars or semi and semi or motorcycles and cars, whatever. So what type of folks hire you? Who hires Crash Response to figure these things out?

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

Yeah. Typically it’s either law firms, insurance companies, or trucking companies.

David W. Craig – Host:

And I think that’s important for people to understand is that there’s a lot of forensic people who work on both sides who get hired on. Sometimes for the victims of the wreck and sometimes for the trucking company. And in your company you do work on both sides. Correct?

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

That’s correct, sir. It’s about a 50-50 mix.

David W. Craig – Host:

Do you think that’s important, as far as your perspective, or does it matter?

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

I think it’s important for other people to know that. Because they don’t know how I personally feel. When I go and reconstruct a crash, I really don’t care who hired me. It is what it is. I don’t really care whether it helps your case or hurts your case. You hired me to tell you the truth. So I think the fact that I work both sides lets everybody else know I feel that way, also.

David W. Craig – Host:

I think that’s important because a lot of people don’t understand that, as an attorney, when I get hired by the victims of a wreck, I want to know up in the front end how strong is my case. Or even if I have a case. And I know I can think of a case we did down in Decatur County, Indiana, where a semi was involved with a car and a guy got killed. Initially there was some reports that the semi was speeding, so they hired us to look into that. And we hired you and you did a download and we found out that the truck was not speeding. That in fact the truck didn’t do anything wrong. So we just dropped the claim. I told the family I couldn’t help them. But I would suspect that there’s times like that when you provide answers to people, either to the trucking companies, that, “Hey, you guys did do something wrong.” Or to the victims and said, “Hey, the trucking company didn’t do anything wrong. The facts are the facts.”

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

That happens more often than you think.

David W. Craig – Host:

Let’s talk about heavy truck, semis, commercial motor vehicle wrecks. I think the first thing that’s important for people to understand, and maybe you can elaborate, is that they’re not the same as car crashes. The folks, I know as far as lawyers, there’s a whole different level of expertise and knowledge that’s required to handle a semi truck case than a car crash. And certainly with the experts I believe it’s the same.

What Is An Event Data Recorder (EDR)?

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

That’s correct. Because a couple of things I’d like to mention, people have a tendency to call EDRs black boxes, and that’s probably a poor association because black boxes are in aircraft and they’re constantly recording. The EDRs in a passenger car only record data when the airbag control module wakes up to a potential crash. Otherwise, they’re not recording anything. And then in heavy trucks, the EDRs take snapshot data that’s been programmed in them and basically the snapshot data is used by the mechanics that repair the trucks to help them diagnose what’s wrong with the engine. It also helps with the safety personnel for the trucking company to know how their driver is doing as they drive down the road. You look at the cost of a truck tractor semi trailer, you’re probably looking at $200,000 and that’s not counting the cargo. So you’re sending somebody out with $200,000 worth of equipment plus the cargo, you need to monitor what they’re doing.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

So the EDRs and the truck ECM helps them do that. The EDRs are programmed for recording pertinent things in a snapshot. For example, if you over-rev the engine or you’re speeding or you’re doing a lot of hard braking. Because if I’m the owner of a trucking company, I don’t want to keep putting brakes in your truck because you’re hot-rodding and you’re not driving in a cautious manner. So the EDRs allow me to do a download and know how well you’re doing as a driver.

David W. Craig – Host:

And I think it’s important because the computer system and what we’re calling the EDR that’s in an SUV, in a car, is different than what’s in a semi tractor trailer. Correct?

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

Right. The EDRs in a car are designed to record the performance of the airbag control module, as well as pre-crash data as far as what the driver’s doing, what the speed of the vehicle is doing, things of that nature. But the EDRs in the heavy truck industry, they only capture snapshot data, and that has not necessarily anything to do with the crash. I can have a hard brake application that’s recorded and it got recorded yesterday and the crash happened today. So a lot of times, for example, the truck driver will apply heavy braking to avoid a collision and of course then that quick-stop data is pertinent to the crash.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

But you have to look at the data that’s recorded as far as, for example, the number of engine hours, to be able to tie it into the crash. And then the time zero, it doesn’t relate to the impact. It relates to the time the software saw the quick brake application begin. So, unless you analyze the crash site, for example, tire marks and rest positions and things of that nature, you can’t necessarily… You know what the speed of the truck was on the approach, but you don’t know the speed of the truck at the time of impact unless you do an accident reconstruction.

David W. Craig – Host:

With respect to cars, so people understand, the data that’s in a car when we’re talking about the airbag module, does it typically trigger when an airbag goes off?

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

Yes. That data recorder will record when the airbag goes off. It’ll also record when it has a non-deployment. A non-deployment would be when the accelerometers, either in the airbag control module or in the airbag system, it’s called satellite sensors. There’s satellite sensors in the left front and right front of your car. The vehicles that have rollover airbags, or side airbags for rollovers, there’s sensors in the B pillar. That’s the pillar right behind your head. So if any sensor senses a quick deceleration… Let’s say you hit a really bad pothole. I’m not talking about a small pothole but I’m talking about one you think just tried to swallow your car, you really hit it hard, that’s going to wake up the modules more than likely and then it’ll record then, what your speed was five seconds before this occurred in one-second intervals. It’ll record whether you had brake application, whether you applied any steering left or right. Things of that nature.

David W. Craig – Host:

So, with respect to cars, a lot of times, then, they actually capture the crash data because they’re designed for the air bag to go off or for the module to be triggered. Correct?

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

Say it again, please.

David W. Craig – Host:

A lot of times the airbag, like when we were talking about a car or an SUV, the data that’s collected oftentimes does collect the data involving the wreck because the airbag was either triggered or the module was triggered.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

That’s correct.

David W. Craig – Host:

Now, in big trucks, like I think you just mentioned, that’s not the same. It doesn’t collect data. There’s no airbag that goes off, or a module that’s triggered when there’s a crash or a big pothole or whatever. It’s typically, is it not, deals with braking?

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

It deals with braking and other engine issues. For example, over rev, over speed, low engine oil pressure, low antifreeze, things to that nature. It’s designed to take snapshots to help a mechanic know what’s wrong with the engine and to do the repairs and also help the trucking company’s safety personnel to know how the driver’s doing such as hard brake applications, how many, that type of thing.

David W. Craig – Host:

I’ve heard the terminology of hard brake. I’ve also heard some people use different types of terminology. Quick stop. They’re all talking about de-acceleration. Can you explain to me why sometimes I hear people talk about different terminology?

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

Yeah. It’s because the manufacturers use different terminology. They’ll use hard brake, quick stops, sudden deceleration, fast stop, and acceleration-triggered event. It depends on which manufacturer you’re talking about. If you look at it from the accident reconstruction standpoint, I would call it a quick stop. In other words, the published data out there, and I’ve done testing to know that this is true, as you and I pull up to stop for a stop sign, our average deceleration rate is about 0.2 Gs. In other words, two-tenths of a G. Now, that’s average. Sometimes when you first touch the brake you’re not slowing up as much and as you brake a little bit harder your rate is a little greater. But overall the average is about 0.2 Gs.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

While published for a quick stop, as far as accident reconstruction is concerned, is 0.4 Gs. The engine control modules on these trucks, typically are set for either seven miles per hour per second, or nine miles per hour per second per second, as far as recording a week stop or a hard brake or whatever terminology you want to use. And that’s just a little bit shy of 0.4 Gs. In other words, a little bit shy of you and I making a quick stop at a stop sign.

David W. Craig – Host:

Okay. And, just before we get into the nitty gritty about how you go about downloading this information, a question would be, let’s say a semi tractor does not hit its brakes. The driver falls asleep, has his truck on cruise control and just plows into the backend of the vehicles in front of him. Would there be data preserved in that situation where there wasn’t actually application of the brakes but you do have a de-acceleration?

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

Yeah. There’s certain manufacturers, for example, Detroit Diesel, Mack and Volvo, Mercedes Benz, all those engines will record a last stop. So now the truck driver wakes up, pulls over to the side and stops and shuts off the engine, it’ll record the last-stop data. So, yes, you may still have data to look at.

David W. Craig – Host:

And I guess another question is, if you have a wreck where there is are semis involved, it hits its brakes, it hard brakes it, it locks in information, but then that semi is driven after that event and driven, say, it’s still drivable. It doesn’t have to be towed. Would that record over the prior, the hard brake that involved the wreck?

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

Yeah. A lot of the, for example Detroit Diesel, will hold two hard brakes. Cummins will hold three. International holds two. They’re all different. So if you have two hard brakes and the last hard brake was the crash and you do another hard brake, or another two hard brakes after that as you’re driving away some place, we’ve lost the data.

David W. Craig – Host:

I know a lot of times the wrecks that I’m involved in involve fatalities or serious injuries. So a lot of times the police will put a hold on the vehicles, so luckily we don’t have that situation. But I have had cases where the truck tractors are driven away. The trucking company’s trying to put them back on the road as quick as possible. So I think in these cases, at least from my experience, the sooner you can get your reconstructionists out to the vehicles, the better off your case is, or the better off at least preserving the evidence is.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

That’s correct, sir.

David W. Craig – Host:

So oftentimes you get called out right after a wreck or when the vehicles are still being stored somewhere?

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

Yeah, I do, yes.

How Does a Reconstructionist Extracts Data from a Truck Accident?

David W. Craig – Host:

Let’s talk a little bit, then, what do you do? You’ve been called, you’ve been hired by either side and they want to extract data from the semi tractor or other heavy truck. Can you walk us through? Tell us a little bit about what’s involved in the process.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

Sure. The first thing that you need… I’m going to look here real quick. I’m trying to remember the date of that. Yeah, it’s 2015. It’s called the Driver Privacy Act. It requires the owner’s permission or a warrant in order to access the data. Now, it doesn’t say the owner at the time of the crash so whether it’s a passenger car or a heavy truck, the owner has to approve the download. If, for example, your car is totaled, the insurance company now owns the car. They can authorize the download. So the first thing you’ve got to do is get that authorization. And then the second thing we need to do is determine what engine is in the truck because, for example, the Mack, Volvo engines and trucks, they can only be downloaded by a Mack-authorized affiliated.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

So I or any other reconstructionist do not have access to that software. It’s only if you’re a Mack-authorized affiliate, and I believe there’s four in the United States. There might be six now. And then one in Canada. So either they have to come and do the download or you have to take out the modules and send it to them to perform the download.

David W. Craig – Host:

And that’s a Mack and Volvo, right?

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

That’s correct.

David W. Craig – Host:

So let’s assume it’s not a Mack or a Volvo. What do you do next?

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

Well, again, you look at what engine’s in it. You determine what year the engine was manufactured so that you know whether it contains data or not. For example, Caterpillar had quick stop information ever since 1996 but it wasn’t until 2008 that that quick stop was turned on to take a snapshot. I’ll give you another example. Packard, on highway engines, since 2010 that began and it ended in 2016 because there with a training class by instructors from the Society of Automotive Engineers teaching people like myself how to do the downloads and analyze the downloads and they were braking at 2017 Packard. They instrumented it with accelerometers, fifth-wheels, other ways of also recording data, and they discovered that the speeds recorded during the hard braking was only approximately 50% of what it actually was.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

So they contacted Packard. Packard discovered that that was an error and they said that it was a software issue with the engine. I’m assuming that means a software issue with the engine control module. They said they would have it repaired or fixed but I don’t know the terminology that they used but they have, for example, I’ll just use the airbag control module stuff for version, it’s 19.6 now. And prior to that, let’s just say they said they were going to fix it but they won’t fix it until version 21.5 comes out. So, so far, to my knowledge, they have not repaired that. It’s different with the CDR system for cars. I’ve had four updates already just this year. But you don’t have that a lot of times with the heavy trucks because, like I said, the purpose of it is not accident reconstruction. We just happen to use that data.

David W. Craig – Host:

And obviously, again, that’s why it’s important to understand and do this and be trained because you have to understand how important and how accurate the data is that you’re extracting. Because if you don’t, if you’re just extracting it and you don’t know how to use it, then it’s meaningless and it can create false results. So a big part of what you do is not only extract information but then, am I correct in that you have to understand how to interpret it, how valid it is, how accurate it is? And then you utilize your other reconstruction expertise to make sure it all ties together.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

That’s correct. Because the data record information, either on passenger cars or heavy trucks, either one, that assists a reconstructionist on becoming more accurate with the speed estimates and things of that nature, but it doesn’t replace a reconstruction or gathering proper evidence at the crash site.

David W. Craig – Host:

Before antilock brakes we used to have skid marks so we could use skid marks but now we don’t have that as much so a lot of this data is very helpful but I think it’s important for people to understand that you still need to be at the scene as soon as possible and collect the data from the scene to compare that to the data you’re extracting. Correct?

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

That’s correct. On EDRs from passenger cars, because it’s hydraulic brakes, the ABS system cycles so fast that virtually you don’t see any tire marks at all. If you are lucky and get there right away and the sun is at the right position in the sky, you can end up seeing what’s called a shadow. It’s almost like a pavement erasure type evidence but it doesn’t last very long with heavy trucks just because of the weight on the tires, as well as the fact that the brake system is operated by air and it’s not physically possible to cycle air on and off as fast as you can cycle brake line fluid on and off.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

So you’ll still have some tire marks from tractor trailer combinations even though they have ABS but the problem that you have with that is that because there’s so many axles and so many tires, you don’t know which set of tires initially started the skid marks. Was it the last axle on the trailer or was it the last axle on the tractor that actually began to leave the tire marks? So that’s the type of analysis you have to do as a reconstructionist.

David W. Craig – Host:

So you’ve been hired. You get to the scene. You get to the salvage yard or wherever the heavy truck is. Tell me what equipment you need and maybe you can walk me through how you go about extracting the information. Then we’ll go into detail about what kind of information you get.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

Sure. You have an interface between your computer and the truck. It’s kind of like the diagnostic link connector on your car. If your ‘check engine light’ comes on you go in and they plug into a connector under your dash just near your steering column area, and they download data to see why the ‘check engine light’ came on. Well, I download. How it connects to the truck, again, you have to have power to the truck. You have to have the ignition key and you connect in to either a six or nine-pin Deutsche connector. That connector’s just a round connector. It’s usually underneath the dash, the left panel by your left foot. Sometimes they’re by the… just to the left and behind the driver’s seat.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

So when you start the software from each manufacturer, and if it’s a Cummings engine, you start using their software, and then it will download the data from the truck. The issue a lot of times, if you can’t get the truck powered up, don’t have the ignition key, then you have to either find a surrogate truck. In other words, a lot of large trucking companies a lot of times will buy whole bunch of trucks all at the same time. They’re all configured exactly the same. So if you’re the trucking company you can go to another truck, download that engine control module to make sure there’s no fault codes, and then swap modules out and then do the download.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

If you don’t have that access then there’s a smart sensor simulator that you can purchase. I don’t own one. But the simulator will simulate all the connections to the engine control module. Because, again, it’s looking at engine oil pressure, it’s looking at fluid levels and all those types of things. Well, if it doesn’t see those sensors because you’ve removed it from the truck, now your download will contain a bunch of fault codes that weren’t there in the first place. Now, as far as the reconstruction is concerned, I don’t care. My quick stop data is going to be the same no matter what. But some people don’t like the idea that you’re adding fault codes to the download that weren’t there at the time of the crash.

David W. Craig – Host:

Now, did you send me some photos of the equipment you used?

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

Yes. I can share that with you in just a second here.

David W. Craig – Host:

For those folks that are watching on the video Zoom, the video podcast, we’ll show you some pictures of the equipment that is used in extracting the information out of the tractor trailers.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

Okay. Tell me when you see them.

David W. Craig – Host:

Yep, I see it.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

Okay. It’s called the Nexiq USB Link 2. That hooks up through a USB port on your computer and then you can see there’s on the other end of the round connectors I told you about, the gray one is the six-pin. The green one’s the nine-pin. That’s what you use for the connection. That’s an engine control module on a Volvo on the side of the engine. I couldn’t back the photo up any to get a better picture of it because there’s so many hoses in the way so I actually had to be up real close. You can see the yellow connectors that you have to release. There’s two groups of pins for the engine control module. It’s called, on Volvos and I believe some Mercedes engines actually have two separate modules. I’ll show you that in a little bit.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

But there’s the module removed, with the exception of the fuel line that goes around it. It’s beyond me why Volvo has fuel coming in one side, making a complete EU, coming out the other side. But you have to disconnect the fuel lines, too, before you can get the module out. And then on the inside of the truck in the dash, it’s called a Vehicle Electronic Control Module. The two modules communicate with each other as well as information in the odometer, speedometer housing.

David W. Craig – Host:

Now, the type of information you get out of these trucks, I assume they vary a little bit based upon who the manufacturer is. Is that fair?

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

That’s correct.

David W. Craig – Host:

So let’s talk a little bit about the information that you do get. I know you’ve sent me some examples and I’ve certainly seen them in a lot of cases I’ve handled. But let’s start off with a Caterpillar ECM quick stop example. What type of information are we able to get out of this computer?

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

The examples I’ve got in my… I narrowed it down to two different examples. I’ve got Cummins and Detroit Diesel. So I can share my screen again, if you don’t mind.

David W. Craig – Host:

Sure.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

I have not downloaded all the pages. I’ve just downloaded some pertinent ones so you can see what type of information you get. I mentioned earlier that the sudden decel threshold is seven miles per hour per second. And then you can see you have ECM runtime and that shows that the ECM was actually on for 593 hours, 21 minutes, and 31 seconds. This is a sudden vehicle speed deceleration report. It says the ECM runtime at the occurrence was 167 hours and so many minutes and seconds. So you can see that if you’re looking at the truck after a crash, this sudden speed deceleration doesn’t belong to your crash because it occurred at 167 engine hours, ECM hours, and you’ve got 593 on the engine.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

But I did this to show you as an example. And then it has an occurrence distance in miles. And even if the ECM hours and the total runtime match, the occurrence distance is miles that the ECM has recorded, not what the odometer has recorded. The odometer, there’s two different pieces of information that go across the bus. One is kind of a lower resolution that’s used for total trip miles. And then there’s a higher resolution that records stuff 25 times for every one of the lower resolution, and that’s what the ECM uses.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

So everything’s not perfect in the world as far as electronics so instead of being every 25 times, let’s say, because the information has to travel across the data bus and it may not be seen exactly in the same time sequence, the difference might be 24.9 times for every one time. So your ECM mileage will differ from the odometer mileage on a heavy truck, especially if the truck has a lot of miles like, say, for example, 100,000 miles. You’ll never see it match because of that.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

I’ll go down here and here’s a sudden deceleration example from that. You can see that you get 59 seconds prior to the hard brake application. You get vehicle speed, engine RPM, load, throttle. Excuse me. And we’ll go down and then that time zero, which I mentioned to you, it’s seven miles per hour per second. Well, the miles per hour here, I only printed out the information that’s captured more often with more accuracy than to the mile per hour. So even though you only see it’s six miles an hour, it actually was seven because of… it might have been 60.6, or 60.4 miles per hour and then 53.7 or something. But it just prints out to the nearest but the difference between the two in that timestamp was seven miles per hour per second. So that’s what becomes time zero.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

And then you get up to 15 seconds after that as far as where the speed is concerned. You can see that it did not… of the hard brake and it slowed up but then it started back up and continued on down the road. Excuse me. The next example I have is Detroit Diesel and that’s my favorite of all the trucks as far as the download’s concerned. You get an odometer reading, again, from the ECM. But here’s, for example, a hard brake counts. There’s 122 hard brakes out of about 80,000. So if you’re running a trucking company and let’s say you have 100 trucks, or 200 trucks out there, if you do the downloads and you can see what drivers are doing a better job not doing so many hard brakes and you know what the average is for your trucking company, so when you have somebody with a higher average, you can take some disciplinary action.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

Unfortunately, the speeds and the hard brakes information from the ECM downloads, I’ve never, when I look at personnel files from the trucking company, I have never seen anyone ever disciplined based on ECM download data. That’s kind of sad. So then here’s speeding, for example. The highest speed obtained by this truck was 83 miles an hour. And then you’ve got it being equal to or greater than 71 miles per hour. That happened 65,535 times. So this is the good information that you can get from Detroit Diesel.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

And again I mentioned about the seven miles per hour hard brake limit. But here is the part that I love. It’s the daily engine usage for one entire month. So let’s say the accident happened on February 26th at 20:20, you’re going to have the engine drive hours. It shows how many hours and minutes the engine, you were driving, how many hours and minutes you were idling, and how many hours and minutes the engine was off. So it’s important for the attorney or the insurance company or the trucking company, obviously a trucking company will know, is there more than one driver to this truck? Because this engine’s recording this information but it doesn’t know who’s driving.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

Everybody thinks now we have electronic logging devices but there’s as much cheating in the electronic logging devices as there were in the paper ones because all the things you could do in the paper ones you can do in the electronic logs, also. For example, you can say you’re in the sleeper berth when in fact you’re sitting and having your truck loaded at a terminal. The electronic log doesn’t know that you’re not in the sleeper berth. You have to enter it yourself. So you can see that this comes in real handy for comparing what the driver said. Let’s just say the driver says that the 25th was his day off. He wasn’t driving. Well, obviously he was driving. That’s how you can catch when they’re lying about their logs.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

And then here’s a hard brake example. And talking about investigating the crash or knowing more about the crash, you’ll see that with this hard brake the odometer reading at the time of the download was 215,522.1 miles, but at the time of the incident the odometer was 215,518.7 miles, so they don’t match. Well, you’re going to say, “Well then this hard brake doesn’t belong to this crash.” But in fact it does because if you did the investigation you would know post-crash the truck kind of limped down the road for almost four miles to pull into a parking lot to wait for the wrecker. So you’ve got to know that data to do this comparison.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

But, again, you get 59 seconds prior to the hard brake application and you get all of the speeds and the engine RPM, brake, clutch, engine load, throttle, whether the cruise was on or not or whether there’s any diagnostic codes being reported. At time zero obviously is when the speed dropped by seven miles per hour per second. But what’s interesting, this truck is approaching a traffic light and the traffic light is changing from green to yellow to red. You can see as the truck is approaching, look at the throttle. At about 13 seconds prior to the hard brake, we’ve got the pedal to metal, so the speed is picking up because he’s going to try to beat the light. Then when he doesn’t, bam, we have a collision. And, again, you have to go back and look at where the truck came to rest so you can work your way backwards, time and distance-wise, to know what speed the truck was going at at the time of the collision. But that’s a good example of using the truck EDR data.

David W. Craig – Host:

And in this day and age it’s completely different than when I first started 35 years ago. The amount of information that we have is a lot more. Some areas we lost some data, we lost some information, on the skid marks, but we’ve gained it in so many other areas. But, like you said, you kind of need to go to the scene and look at the evidence and understand how this data relates to your actual wreck.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

That’s correct, sir.

The Importance of Having an Expert Truck Wreck Reconstructionist and a Lawyer

David W. Craig – Host:

So, tell me, how important is it, in your mind, so when there is one of these big wrecks and it involves serious injuries or fatalities, how important is it for the lawyer or the trucking company to get their team together and get their reconstructionists and their people to the scene to extract this data and to examen the scene?

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

Yes, it’s very important they do that right away, especially truck-wise, if you’re not the owner of the truck. The trucking company wants to make money, obviously, and they’ve got a load on, for example, on the trailer. It doesn’t even belong to them. They have an obligation to get this load to where they were supposed to haul it to. So a lot of times the truck tractor will be damaged enough that it’ll still around but now the trailer’s not around anymore because within about a day another truck tractor came, picked up that trailer, if it’s not impounded by the police, and took off with it. Well, if you want to do a brake exam, you don’t have a trailer anymore. So it’s important to get going on a truck case, more so than it is on a passenger car case.

David W. Craig – Host:

And would you agree that it’s more important in a semi truck case to be dealing with experts like yourself that you experienced in truck wrecks?

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

Yes. For example, myself, I have a Class A Cdl. I’ve been to Bendix Air Brake School. I’m a member of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. I’ve been to the Roadside Inspection classroom portion so I had the same classroom training that the state troopers have when they perform the roadside inspections. So you need somebody that’s familiar with trucks and understands what it’s like to drive a truck, what it’s like to examen brakes. Because it’s a total different beast as compared to a passenger car.

David W. Craig – Host:

Do you think that, can people simply, if their family has been involved in one of these wrecks, can they simply rely upon the police that are investigating to collect all the data?

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

No, they can’t necessarily rely on it. To give you an example, I’m familiar with Illinois. Illinois uses, I have the hardware, it’s called the Forensic Link Adaptor. It’s like the adaptor that I showed you where you connect to a truck, but this actually will do the download for you all automatically. It’s a read-only. Well, the whole State of Illinois, they have one computer and one… I’m sorry, four computers and four Forensic Link Adapters for the whole state. As an example, I got a call from an attorney and he was representing the truck and we wanted to get that download data and we were waiting and waiting and waiting and finally I contacted the trooper myself and I said, “You can use my equipment, my software. We’d like the data.” So that’s how I found out they only have four computers and four of those Forensic Link Adapters for the entire State of Illinois and they had to wait for one to be free and get shipped to them. So I met the State Trooper, [Kotoya 00:49:10] Arden. I did the downloading and shared the data with the State Police.

David W. Craig – Host:

I think that’s what people don’t understand. I have my lawyers license in Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana. We do truck wreck cases all over the country, mainly in the Ohio Valley and the Midwest. But police departments, the amount of resources they have vary from state to state. Not every state police, especially when you’re dealing with city and and county police, have the equipment or the resources to fully investigate, or the knowledge, how these things work, to investigate these wrecks.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

That’s correct. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s $4,000 a year just for the software. You’ve got to keep licensing it. It’s only good for a year. And it’s more expensive than that to get the equipment for the data recorders from passenger cars. And unlimited budgets, the police agencies just don’t necessarily have the budget to be able to do that, or have the budget to send the officers off for the training.

David W. Craig – Host:

Obviously if a semi tractor is involved with a car, and I represent the victims of the car, one of the things I do is make sure we secure the car. So, like you said, insurance companies will pay out and total the car but we will deduct the salvage value and we will maintain and keep that vehicle. I’ll put the cars in storage often, just because if anybody wants to look at it, I want to make sure it’s available and we haven’t lost that evidence. But when you do the downloads of a car, it’s a little bit different than when you do the download of a semi. Like you talked about earlier, the data you have is different and it’s also more limited, is it not?

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

Not necessarily more limited. You actually get a lot more data. I’ve got some examples to show you on that. Just a second.

David W. Craig – Host:

I think it’s important for people to see what kind of data and what kind of information can you get out of the car, the airbag module.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

Sure. Let me share my screen again, please. This is, it’s called the Bosch CER System. The module on the lower right is the original CDR box and the module about it is for Flex, going directly to the modules for FlexRay instead of CAN bus. The FlexRay communication system is on BMWs and VWs. Why those two companies chose a different system than every other manufacturer in the world, I don’t know. And then the one on the lower left is their latest module, or interface. It’s called the 900. Eventually all the modules either direct to the module or the diagnostic link connector will use the 900. But we’re in an interim so all the older vehicles, you still need the original interface. The newer vehicles, you need the newer interface.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

So the cost of a Deluxe Pro Kit, you can buy just the ones that hook up only to the diagnostic link connector under the dash if you can get the car powered up and power up the module. Just that kit alone is over $7,000 with the one-year license. My kit, I’ve got all the direct-to-module cables to go right to the module in case I can’t do a diagnostic link download. Right now I believe I have 82 direct-to-module cables that cost $220 a piece. So you’re looking at, if you want to buy what I have new, that’s $17,300 investment. Police departments just don’t have that kind of budget.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

I’ll show you some modules. This is a GM module and you can see there’s two connectors coming to it. When you’re looking for the airbag control module, it’s easy to find them once you dig through all the center console area and stuff because they’ve always got yellow connectors. The older modules used to just have one large yellow connector. The newer modules are bigger because there’s more sensors on your vehicle, so a lot of times they’ve gone to a two-connector scenario. So what I do is a remove the connector that I’m told to remove by the Bosch software and you can see now I’ve got my black direct-to-cable hooked up to the module.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

I’ll show you. You can see where the module is down where the center console used to be, and you can see my interface hooked up to it and my computer hooked up to the interface running the Bosch CDR software. So to be able to do the download, like I said, the simplest thing is to make sure you have the key or key fob to the car so you can power up the module and then just plug in, just like the technician does when they look for fault codes and stuff when you take your car in for service.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

But if you can’t get it powered up, for example sometimes even if I use a jump kit, like a jump-start kit, and power up where the battery used to be, because of all the damage, it still doesn’t power up the module. So I’ve been lucky. It’s worked every time for me. I made up a kit that I can back power the module by plugging into where the 10-amp fuse is in the fuse box. That’s usually on the inside of the car so it doesn’t get the same damage that all the electronics do in the front of the vehicle, like in a head-on crash. So I can power up the module and still use the DLC connection to download.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

But when that doesn’t work or it’s not easily accessible because of damage, then you have to get to the module itself. In the earlier days the modules a lot of times were under the driver’s seat or under the passenger seat. But as far as accuracy is concerned, they basically got plus or minus 4% in the earlier years and that’s because the module was not in the center of mass of the vehicle. Now all your newer cars, the modules are, as you can see in my example, it truly is very near the center of mass so the results are much more accurate. I’ve got some examples of downloads if you’d like.

David W. Craig – Host:

Yeah, yeah. If you can show us what kind of data do we get from a car.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

Sure. I’ve removed some VIN numbers and information so it can’t be identified. I don’t have any current downloads because all my current download cases are active. But here’s an example of a 2009 Toyota. It was slowing in traffic and then got rear-ended by a semi. As you saw in the photograph I had in my computer, I entered the VIN number of the vehicle, entered my name, entered my case number, and then the software records what date I imaged it and the software also makes the download file. It’s called a CDRX file. So that’s automatically generated.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

It’s important after I do the download I can print the whole download as a PDF file but it’s important for you or anyone else to make sure that you also have the CDRX file and the reason for that, you can’t read it unless you own the software. But if the software, I’ll show you a little bit later on, it’s interpreting the data that’s stored. Bosch does that interpretation. So if they made a mistake in the programing, so instead of left steer being a negative steer angle, it should have been a positive steer angle, and they discover that, then it’s corrected in the software and then all I’ve got to do is re-run the same download and it will give me then the correct answer. So it’s important to have both of those files.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

The newer downloads and the CDR file information will actually have the name of my company that I’m the owner of the software and that’ll be printed there, also. It tells you what type of device did the recording. Here it’s an airbag control module. On a newer vehicles it might be the rollover module. That type of thing. So then it talks about the types of events recovered. Here we’ve got one front rear and then one side. I’m only going to show you the front rear. The vehicle is really damaged so the module was removed and we did a bench download. So in comments I added that fact that it was a bench download and it wasn’t hooked up to the car.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

You’ll see under the recording status all pages it shows “Complete.” Normally you’ll see it being complete nowadays but years ago and in the older modules, the length of time that is recorded might only have been 150 milliseconds instead of 200 milliseconds, and so it doesn’t necessarily record the entire crash. It only recorded the first 150 milliseconds. So, in that case, if it sees the crash was not over, as far as the change of velocity, then it won’t show “Complete.”

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

And here this shows the freeze signal is on. In other words, that information is frozen. It can’t be overwritten. Again, this Bosch software just, it’s a read-only, so I’m not going to override it. But that means that any subsequent crash is not going to overwrite this data. But now the newer modules record multiple events and they’re not normally locked like this one is and the reason for that… For example, let’s say the initial impact triggered an airbag deployment but subsequent to that you got a much larger, more serious crash. Well, if it locks the data and it only has the capability of recording one event, you lost the big event because of that.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

So nowadays they let the big event overwrite the smaller event so you have the most important data. And then this one, it just says, “Trigger count one.” I’ll show you an example in a little bit where there’s more than one trigger count, so you know that there’s been more than the one event recorded. And then they talk about “Time to deployment command.” That’s when the module wakes up. It sees a deceleration. So then it’s recording, and the reason for the event data recorders initially and probably it’s true today, too, the reason they are part of the airbag control module, because that monitors how well the modules are performing. The engineers that design these modules need to know that. Can we improve on things? So that’s another reason for recording this data.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

You can see here at 64 milliseconds from the time that the module woke up until it told the airbag to deploy. That’s a really short period of time. But in reality that’s long. I’ll show you an example in a little bit, that it’s only 10 milliseconds. Because obviously the airbag’s got to deploy almost immediately, otherwise it’s not going to do you any good.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

Here it’ll show that the seatbelt is buckled on the driver’s side and it shows the passenger side was unbuckled but it’s not occupied. The newer modules not only will say whether the passenger… It will actually weigh the passenger. I can’t remember which manufacturer it is now but there’s actually six categories. Either there’s nobody in the passenger seat, or a small child, and go up in each of the weight steps until you get to my weight and that’s number six. And then it also shows the seat position of the driver. This driver had the driver’s seat was in the rearward position. Now either you’re rearward or forward. So if it’s rearward you know the seat’s back aways so your driver is a taller person, as compared to if it’s forward then it might be shorter person or a female, that type of thing.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

And here’s the longitudinal, maximum longitudinal delta-v. Delta-v is the change of velocity due to the crash. Basically anything around 30 mile-per-hour delta-v is a very serious crash. So if you notice the delta-v is positive, so the vehicle, since it got rear-ended by the semi, it’s being pushed forward so it’s now going 37.2 miles an hour faster than it was before it got rear-ended.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

And then besides the graph, you get a table with all the time in milliseconds and what the delta-v was. Here’s where you get the pre-crash data, up to five seconds before. So you can see that the vehicle at about four seconds prior to the log rhythm enabled, I’ll just call it the crash, it was going 36 miles an hour and the brakes were on and it’s slowing up down to the trigger event. It slowed down from within about a four-second time period from 36 miles an hour down to 11 and the brakes were on the entire time. The newer modules not only will record whether… Because this is just a brake light switch so I’ve got to do is just touch lightly on the brake and it’ll show that I’m braking but it doesn’t tell you, meaning how hard I’m braking.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

Well, some of the newer modules now actually record the brake line pressure so you know how hard the brake’s being pressed. The accelerator rate, it’s in volts, and 0.78 volts is the default. In other words, the accelerator is not being depressed but it has to see voltage there because it’s drive by wire, so if it doesn’t see voltage it’s not going to let you probably start your car or drive your car. There’s a small amount of voltage always present so 0.78 is the accelerator not being pressed. And you can see initially he had about minus four seconds. We’re at 1,200 RPM. And then we keep slowing up and slowing up so we’re down to idle speed, 400 RPM at the time of the crash.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

And then at the end of each of the printouts is the hexadecimal data. When you’re dealing with memory there’s a memory location and then there’s a value in that memory location. The interpretation is what Bosch does with this hexadecimal data to give me all that information that we just looked at. So now the next one I was going to show you is a 2012 Toyota and it was slowing in traffic and was rear-ended. The driver accelerated and then rear-ended the vehicle in front so it’s a double event. Again, you’ve got the VIN number, imaging date. And here you see there’s two events, front and rear.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

I’ve imaged directly to the module and I put that comment in, as I did the download. And again the reporting’s complete. The image is frozen. It’s a front airbag deployment and a front pre-tensioner deployment. A pre-tensioner is your seatbelt and your shoulder strap. If you’ve ever noticed when you slow up maybe a little quicker than you want to and your body wants to lean forward but your shoulder strap won’t let you lean forward because it locks in position. Well, the airbag safety system will actually physically lock it. It’s not that I can release the ratchet a little bit and then pull it forward again. It’s truly locked. And it also sets off pyrotechnics where you buckle and it’ll take the buckle and shorten up that distance, so it pretensions your seatbelt to help protect you. In other words, it’s making it fit you tighter than how you are wearing it prior to the crash.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

And then the event data recorder trigger count. Here’s two and three and the most recent is number three. Again, the trigger counts one and it only can record two so one obviously got overwritten. It might have been an earlier crash and they never replaced the airbag control module. It might have been in fact I just hit a pothole, like I mentioned earlier, and that got overwritten. You can see the time in milliseconds between the first prior event and the most recent is 6,076 milliseconds so in other words they’re not related. If this time frame is real close then when a collision happens your module can wake up for a forward collision. It can also wake up for a side collision because the side modules wake up. But when you have a big timeframe between the two, you know the events aren’t related. So I’m only going to show you trigger count number three.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

You can see here now the time for the deployment command is only 16 milliseconds. That’s 0.016 seconds. So, again, that’s a lot quicker than the 64 milliseconds you saw in the other example. Again, time for pre-tensioner. Again the 16 milliseconds. And here we’ve got the longitudinal maximum delta-v and this is, remember the second impact. And we’ve got a bit of a slowing up by 27.3 miles an hour due to the crash. And there’s the table involving the same information.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

On the most recent event it shows that the driver’s buckled, the seat’s in the forward position. There’s nobody in the passenger seat. We can see that we went from five seconds prior to the latest crash, we were going 39.8 and at the time of the crash we were going 58.4 miles an hour. You see the brake switch is off. But you can see the accelerator. Remember I said 0.78 was no acceleration. Well, now you can see the voltage go way up and the engine RPM goes up, showing that the person accelerated. Now, this case settled so there wasn’t any deposition testimony so I don’t know whether the person initially got rear-ended so did the person hear tires squealing, looks out his rear-view mirror and punches the accelerator to try to lessen the impact and hit the car in front of him, or, after impact with the car in the rear, did they accidentally hit the accelerator instead of the brake pedal? I don’t know because the case settled and I wasn’t privy to that.

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

So here’s the first prior event was trigger two, and you can see that it was minor and there was no deployment command. That was the rear-end. So the rear-end delta-v made the car go 14.5 miles an hour faster than it was prior to getting rear-ended. And again you get the overall table. Here’s the first event and you can see that initially the vehicle was going 52 miles an hour and had the brakes on, no acceleration, and was slowing up for traffic and got down to 26.1 miles per hour. So if you do the math, you get 26.1 miles an hour and a delta-v of 14.5, now it gives you 40.6 miles an hour, and that’s within less than one mile an hour of what the previous table showed. So you can see that this does work. And again you have the hexadecimal data at the end.

David W. Craig – Host:

Thank you. I think there’s obviously a lot of information that is obtained. Hopefully the information is helpful to the people who had no idea what kind of information can be obtained. I guess if you’re talking to the victims of a semi tractor trailer wreck, in the area of your expertise, accident reconstruction and data downloading, what advice would you give to the folks that have been involved in one of these type of wrecks?

Dwayne ‘Red’ Owen:

Oh, that they need to contact an attorney if they’re planning on taking any legal action. They have to do it right away because if the vehicles aren’t impounded by the police, by the time they contact an attorney and the attorney locates where the vehicles are, they’re already back on the road, so time is of the essence, especially with heavy trucks.

David W. Craig – Host:

This is David Craig and you’ve been listening to After The Crash. If you’d like more information about me or my law firm, please go to our website, CKFLAW.com. Or, if you’d like to talk to me, you can call 1-800-ask-David. If you would like a guide on what to do after a truck wreck, you can pick up my book, Semitruck Wreck: A Guide For Victims and Their Families. It is available on Amazon or you can download it for free on our website, CKFLAW.com.