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Florida Premier Trucking Lawyers: The Black Box and Other Monitoring Devices

Monitoring Devices – “The Black Box”

Nearly all new passenger vehicles, and just about all heavy duty commercial vehicles, have some form of device which is designed to record pre-crash details. Because of the use of the term in airplane crashes, they are commonly referred to as “black boxes.”

However, “black boxes” are better known as “electronic control modules” (ECMs) or “event data recorders” (EDRs).  These are specifically designed to record information for a brief period of time before, during and after a crash. For instance, EDRs can record (1) pre-crash vehicle dynamics and system status, (2) driver inputs, (3) vehicle crash signature, (4) restraint usage/deployment status, and (5) post-crash data such as the activation of an automatic collision notification (ACN) system.

Whether or not this information can be retrieved is another story. Some is intentionally made difficult to download, contained in propriety format so that only a particular set of companies can download it and then sometimes the data is not preserved or the device is turned off. One must act quick.

If preserved, EDR / ECM evidence is usually admissible at trial. We hire experts to download and interpret it and sometimes animate the findings it offers. Challenges to its scientific veracity have almost uniformly been rejected by Courts. See e.g., Matos v. State , 899 So. 2d 403 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 4th Dist. 2005).

AOBRD and other alphabet soup

AOBRDs came about in the 1980s as a replacement for a driver keeping paper logs.  It is different than a ECM / EDR, as they focus more on the regulation of the driver overall. The purpose is to give a broader understanding of what led to the trucking wreck or allow law enforcement to audit the driver even when a wreck hasn’t occurred.

They keep track of:

  • Driver’s total hours of driving today
  • The total hours on duty today
  • Total miles driving today
  • Total hours on duty for the 7 consecutive day period, including today
  • Total hours on duty for the prior 8 consecutive day period, including the present day
  • The sequential changes in duty status and the times the changes occurred for each driver using the device

There are a host of abbreviations used which log similar information- AOBRD, EOBR and ELD. Currently, FMCSA website lists 153 references to “Electronic Logging Devices” (ELD), 74 references to “Electronic On Board Recorder(s) (EOBR), 254 references to “Electronic On Board Recording,” and now 25 references to “AOBRD” (Automatic On Board Recording Device). However, it is clear that Automatic On-Board Recording Device or AOBRD is the preferred term.

AOBRD Ch-Ch-Cha-Changes

This information can be edited, as the regulations state that, “within certain limits, a driver must be allowed to review his or her AOBRD records, annotate and correct inaccurate records, enter any missing information, and certify the accuracy of the information.” However, it also says that the driver / AOBRD must “keep the original entries and reflect the date, time and name of the person making edits to the information.”

Hire an Expert who hires Experts

John is a Board Certified Civil Trial lawyer by the Florida Bar and is licensed in Florida, Georgia and Alabama. He also is licensed before the U.S. Supreme Court and in many federal courts across the southeast. He has taken CDL coursework, as well as attended trucking specific coursework. His firm handles tractor trailer involved wrecks (we prefer not to use the term ‘accidents’ as history shows there is more involved these cases than mere ‘happenstance’). We hire experts from day one to maximize client recovery.

Our toll-free number is 1-877-7-INJURY or 1-904-444-4444. We can be emailed at