Previously, I had the opportunity to speak at the American Association for Justice truck accident litigation seminar in Dallas, Texas. I talked about giving effective opening statements and closing arguments at trial in 18-wheeler truck wreck cases. During the seminar, a question was asked by one of the attendees, “what is a hard braking event?” That is a great question! Especially for newer attorneys, or even seasoned attorneys who are new to truck accident litigation, it’s great to know this data may be out there.
What is a hard braking event?
A hard braking event is considered an event that triggers a black box in a commercial truck to record a sudden change in speed and the accompanying myriad of information. These recordings are most commonly triggered by a rapid change in the speed that meets some pre-set threshold by the manufacturer, although it’s sometimes adjusted by the trucking company as well.
The events are typically triggered by a decrease in speed but, in some systems, a rapid increase in the semi-trucks speed will also trigger an event to be recorded. The most common threshold setting to record a hard brake event is a sudden decrease in the 18-wheeler’s speed by 7 mph or more within one second. However, the threshold can range anywhere from 1 mph to as high as 15 mph.
When the hard braking event triggers the black box to record data, it captures a huge amount of information. It may include as much as 20 minutes of vehicle speed, throttle position, clutch position status, cruise control status, engine load, engine RPM, brake status, and more.
But a word from the wise: Hard braking event data can be easily overwritten if the truck is driven and any subsequent hard brakes, or some other trigger event occurs.
This is one of the many reasons why it’s so critical to get out and inspect the truck as soon as possible and to send a spoliation letter. If you do not, the truck could be moved and erase all that critical information, which will impact your ability to help your clients.
Don’t Get Caught Up In The Fine Details
It’s very easy to get caught up in the fine details and complex issues that go part-and-parcel with any truck accident litigation. When you have the privilege of traveling around the country teaching other truck accident lawyers, sometimes to get that simple question like, “what is a hard braking event?”, serves as a reminder that truck wreck cases are extremely complex. But the whole case truly does start with the basics and grows from there. So, for all the younger lawyers or attorneys who are just getting into trucking, learning about the truck black box is a great place to start.
The truck black box is an untapped field that many attorneys still don’t know very much about. The truck black box is one of the very first things a truck accident lawyer can look into. The black box investigation can level the playing field against the trucking company and its rapid response team. The first thing any attorney should do after a big crash is to get your expert out to inspect the truck as quickly as possible, and download the black box data (without causing spoliation), which can tell the story of what the 18-wheeler was doing in the moments leading up to the wreck.