Prolific Wreck in Beaumont Texas Sheds Light on Vehicle Black Box Recorders


As anyone who has ever seen the news after a plane crash is probably aware, the so called ‘black box’ recording of the event is an invaluable, fundamental tool in determining what happened to cause the accident and the events surrounding the incident. What most people are probably not aware of is that black box recording are also extremely helpful in investigating 18-wheeler accident. Most new rigs carry these boxes, and as in the airline industry, they are typically the first place investigators look for information.


Recently there was a very serious incident involving a 95 car pile up on I-10 near Hamshire Road. Since 16 tractor trailers were involved in this horrific accident there are multiple black boxes involved that can be used to reconstruct the events of that fateful day. This information will eventually tell investigators and attorney how and why the collisions occurred.

Engine manufacturers like Detroit Diesel or Cummins Engines are two of the major companies that include black box recorders on their rigs. These recorders have been a common feature in commercial trucks since the mid-1990s. A little known fact about these “black boxes” is that rather than being black they are typically orange.


Clay Dugas and Reggie Blakeley of Dugas Law Firm made statements to the Beaumont Enterprise concerning the crashes and these devices. They have had extensive experience in cases involving 18-wheeler crashes and black box data and they confirmed that the premise of the black box recording device is the same for both airplanes and 18-wheelers. The law firm has no direct connection with clients from the Thanksgiving day crash.

“In a critical event (a black box) saves the data two minutes ahead of and 30 seconds after,” says Blakeley. The reason that this is so crucial is that this enables a truck’s black box to record the vehicle’s initial speed as well as the instant when the “hard brake” occurred. A hard brake is defined as the moment when the truck’s driver perceives the emergency situation and engages the truck’s air brakes. These air brakes control all 18 wheels on a total of five axles. The black box will also show the point of impact and whether or not the driver had cruise control engaged at the time.


Newer black box models are also able to record the tire pressure on the vehicle which can also play a pivotal role in some accidents. In addition to this valuable data investigators are also able to access Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to get further information about the crash and positioning of the vehicles involved. Many 18-wheeler companies equip their rigs with GPS trackers so that they can monitor a truck’s progress along its route.

A third investigative technique involves documenting skid marks immediately after the time of the crash. This can further help piece together what happened and get to the root causes. This documentation must occur right away while the marks are fresh and before they have had a chance to become degraded by new traffic or weather conditions.

As you can probably imagine being an outsider of the commercial trucking industry driving a big rig is quite a bit different from handling a standard car or truck. Not only are these 18-wheelers much longer and heavier, but as a result of their substantial size, they have a greatly increased stopping distance. That makes the valuable data that can be pulled from black box recordings all the more useful in determining culpability and better understanding future safety steps when eighteen wheeler accidents do occur.

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