Modern tractor-trailers come equipped with technology to help avoid accidents. Many truck fleets also outfit their vehicles with specialized cameras and electronic logging devices.
Technology, however, does not replace a driver exercising care and caution when sharing the road with other vehicles. As noted by PBS News Hour, the National Transportation Safety Board has reported an increase in accidents involving large trucks. The pervasive factor of “driver fatigue” as a cause of truck accidents appears as an alarming statistic in the NTSB’s findings.
When an accident occurs, a truck’s onboard technology may provide evidence of what actually took place at the time of the crash. The data captured by a truck’s sensors and recording devices could help determine if a fatigued driver, road conditions or operator error caused the accident.
Electronic logging devices
Due to concerns over driver fatigue, federal regulations require truck operators to use an electronic logging device, which tracks the driver’s service hours. An automated ELD system records a vehicle’s speed, location and the operator’s hours of service behind the wheel.
The intent of the federal ELD regulations is to monitor when an operator takes required breaks and to ensure he or she stops driving after 11 hours behind the wheel. Failing to comply with federal law may result in a company facing liability for injuries caused by its driver’s negligence.
Cameras mounted on a truck’s external vantage points can capture road conditions and could help to determine whether the driver is at fault if an accident occurs. Many of the systems can detect the vehicle swerving; a camera then automatically begins recording.
In-cab cameras can also capture an operator’s motions and activity, such as when a truck’s driver starts to doze off. A camera may also record distractions, such as phone calls or text messaging.
Legal actions for damages
When an accident caused by a tractor-trailer requires a legal action, the court may request the truck’s recorded video footage or ELD data to help determine how the collision occurred. The information obtained may coincide with a plaintiff’s testimony of events to verify the cause of his or her injuries.