As technology advances around us, so does the ability to determine what happened in a commercial semi-truck accident and who or what is responsible for the crash. Our truck accident attorneys at Craig Kelley and Faultless can use the information downloaded from a truck’s black box recorder, for example, to pursue compensation for victims of truck crashes in Indiana. It’s one more reason for you to contact a truck accident attorney if you have been injured in a truck accident.
Technological advances in the trucking and automotive industry have changed the face of accident investigations much the way that moving from landline telephones to 5G-powered smartphones has changed daily life, says Fleet Owner, a publication for executives and managers of commercial truck fleets.
Let’s take a look at some of the technology on large commercial trucks that helps us determine what happened after a truck accident.
Electronic Computer Modules
Electronic Computer Modules (ECMs) on commercial trucks typically save last-stop data and record the last two hard stops made by the truck. Data from ECMs show us the truck’s speed, throttle input (acceleration) and braking (or lack thereof) just before an accident. These sensors also record whether the driver veered left or right just before the impact of a crash or did not steer their vehicle to try to avoid the accident. A lack of reaction to avoid a collision may indicate the truck driver was distracted or had fallen asleep.
At the start of a truck accident investigation, we would issue a spoliation letter advising a trucking company of our investigation and the records such as these that should be preserved as evidence.
Safety sensors on commercial trucks are meant to keep the vehicles out of accidents. They are radar devices that track the truck’s movements and trigger an automated corrective response when needed. For example, forward-looking sensors automatically slow trucks when traffic ahead slows or stops unexpectedly, thus theoretically avoiding rear-end accidents.
Other sensors on a commercial truck measure and alert the driver to truck and trailer sway, lane departures and loss of tire pressure.
In addition to warning the trucker, these automated systems also alert the driver’s dispatcher to a potential problem occurring on an Indiana highway or elsewhere on the road. This information is recorded and becomes available to our investigators after an accident.
It’s hard to top actual video footage of a trucker doing something that contributed to an accident. Dashboard cameras aimed into the cab of a truck might show a trucker talking on a handheld cellphone while driving, which is illegal, or nodding off or falling asleep at the wheel, which is a common cause of truck accidents in Indiana.
Dashcams put in place so the trucking company can monitor driver habits are becoming more common in commercial trucks. We can subpoena the footage after an accident. “In these instances, the video either confirms the truck driver was entirely at fault or not at all at fault,” Fleet Owner says. “Either way, this level of clarity makes resolving claims more efficient and less costly.”
The rise in technology is also contributing to the amount of video evidence potentially available to investigators. Security cameras can be found surrounding businesses, offices, schools and warehouses, as well as around private homes.
“(A) vital part of any accident investigation now includes canvassing the area surrounding the accident site to identify and obtain any security surveillance video that may have captured the incident,” Fleet Owner says.
Drug and Alcohol Testing
In another recent report, Fleet Owner says technology now offers assistance to ensure compliance with drug and alcohol testing of truck drivers, including solutions for planning and scheduling random tests and for documenting and recording test results.
The FMCSA’s drug and alcohol clearinghouse has established a database for any driver’s positive test results and/or test refusals recorded after January 6, 2020. All commercial drivers seeking employment with a carrier now must register with the clearinghouse, and motor carriers are to check the database as part of the hiring process.
This should close a loophole in the system that allowed drivers who had failed a drug or alcohol test to attempt to find employment elsewhere without that carrier ever finding out about the prior failed test, an industry consultant told Fleet Owner.
These records of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will be public records available to anyone, including crash investigators employed by law firms like ours.
The FMCSA announced in December that it was increasing the random drug testing rate from 25% to 50% in 2020. This means motor carriers must run a number of random tests over the course of the year equal to half of the average number of licensed commercial drivers nationwide.
The FMCSA estimates there are 3.2 million commercial driver license holders participating in interstate commerce and 1 million CDL holders participating in intrastate commerce. Under the annual random testing rate of 50%, approximately 2.1 million random tests will need to be conducted in 2020, according to an explanation by Transport Topics.
By law, the FMCSA administrator must increase the minimum annual random testing percentage rate when the data received under the requirements for any calendar year indicate that the positive rate is equal to or greater than 1%. The rate was reduced when the estimated positive usage rate for drugs was 0.8% in 2017 and 0.7% in 2016. But it was raised for 2020 after FMCSA’s 2018 Drug and Alcohol Testing Survey revealed that the positive rate for controlled substances in random testing had increased to 1%.
The minimum rate for random alcohol testing will remain at 10%.
Contact an Indianapolis Truck Accident Lawyer
The Indianapolis-based truck accident attorneys of Craig, Kelley and Faultless LLC have been using all available means to identify the causes of semi and tractor-trailer collisions on behalf of injured clients for more than 30 years. We appreciate how advances in technology will continue to help us build the most persuasive case for compensation to help individuals and families harmed by negligent truck drivers and trucking companies.
If you’ve been injured in a commercial truck accident in Indianapolis or elsewhere in Indiana, contact us online or at (800) 746-0226 and let us explain – at no charge to you – how we can help you.