ECM on Trucks: What You Need to Know

A truck Engine Control Module, or ECM, is better known as the “brain” of the engine. The ECM is a computer attached to the engine for receiving data from various sources within the truck (the input) and reporting conditions or events (the output).

If you have been involved in a crash involving a tractor-trailer or another big rig, you need a fierce attorney to fight for your legal rights on time. Wagner Reese, LLP is the nation’s leader in large truck accident cases. Our attorneys are well known for providing top-notch legal counsel and have earned numerous recognitions and awards from distinguished organizations. Our firm prides itself on providing outstanding representation for our client’s personal injury cases.

Motorcycle on the Road and a Truck Visible on the Mirrors

Definition and Purpose of ECM on a Truck

Engine Control Modules are the brains of semi-trucks, 18-wheelers, and other big rigs. All tractor-trailers and commercial vehicles in the United States must have an ECM.

What is an ECM and its role in truck operations?

The Engine Control Module helps limit the speed of commercial vehicles and monitors various truck operations. Data is stored on the ECM of the truck regarding specific events, such as a record of a sudden deceleration that occurred.

How does an ECM collect and process data?

In the early 1990s, sophisticated ECMs were created for fleet managers and mechanics to maintain and troubleshoot their trucks to keep an efficient fleet operation. For this purpose, ECMs have been further developed with software programmed to record specific data regarding the truck’s operation.

The truck’s ECM system monitors the operations of the truck, including:

  • Fuel efficiency
  • Engine performance
  • Speed
  • Use of the clutch
  • Braking
  • Use of cruise control
  • Airbag systems
  • Mechanical problems

When a problem is detected by the truck’s ECM, a dashboard warning light is turned on. Most ECM systems on commercial vehicles are equipped with an Event Data Recorder (EDR). When a triggering event occurs, such as hard braking or a crash, the EDR records the ECM data for one or two minutes before and after the event.

The Impact of ECMs in Trucking Accidents

After a collision, a truck accident injury attorney will investigate a potential claim for their injured client, promptly acting to have the truck and its ECM system preserved as quickly as possible for evidence in a potential lawsuit.

How can ECM data be crucial in investigating truck accidents?

ECM data can be used for investigating commercial trucking accidents. The EDR is thoroughly analyzed by trained professionals to help determine facts regarding the collision, including:

  • Engine speed
  • Vehicle speed
  • Longitudinal acceleration
  • Change in velocity
  • Lateral acceleration
  • Brake application
  • Steering wheel angle
  • Anti-lock braking system activity
  • Seatbelt usage
  • Roll angle
  • Yaw rate
  • Tire pressure
  • Gear selection

The role of ECM data in determining liability and causation in accidents

Truck accident attorneys will carefully evaluate the downloaded ECM data and any available physical evidence to piece together a picture of what the driver and their truck were doing prior to the collision. With that information in hand, we can build a solid case, proving negligence on the part of the trucking company or the truck driver that led to the accident.

ECM Data in Personal Injury Cases

How ECM data can strengthen personal injury cases and provide evidence of negligence.

When data is gathered from an ECM, your attorney has an excellent opportunity to prove negligence, such as driver fatigue, when the crash occurred. When the company’s or driver’s logs differ from the data collected by the ECM, this signifies a strong indication that the company is lacking internal control regarding the methods they use to ensure the company and its drivers are in full compliance with DOT regulations.

Understanding the legal challenges involved in accessing and interpreting ECM data.

Since information stored in an ECM is crucial to someone who has been injured in a truck accident, their attorney must act swiftly to properly preserve and interpret the data from the device. They can either reach a written agreement between parties involved in the crash or file an immediate protective order to guarantee the ECM data from the truck is preserved.

Another crucial step is to document who holds custody of the truck while seeking a court order to limit movement or access to the ECM unit or vehicle prior to a thorough inspection by the lawyer or their accident experts. The ECM data and other automatically recorded data must be specifically requested from the trucking company, their insurance company, and their attorney.

The Expertise of Wagner Reese, LLP

When you are challenging a powerful trucking company, you need a law firm like Wagner Reese, LLP, working on your side.

The experience of Wagner Reese, LLP in handling trucking accident cases

With decades of legal experience, the attorneys at Wagner Reese can handle your case with professionalism and skill to ensure you receive justice and compensation for the damages you suffered.

Our firm’s success relating to ECM data in past cases

Our dedicated and skilled attorneys have successfully fought and won millions for our clients who have been injured by negligent truck drivers. Truck drivers who were operating under the influence of drugs, fell asleep at the wheel, or drove over their allowed maximum driving hours, were held responsible for the damages they caused.

Red Truck on the Road

Let Wagner Reese, LLP Fight for You

If you have suffered injuries in a commercial truck accident, our aggressive and knowledgeable attorneys are ready to fight for you. You have the right to seek compensation for the damages and injuries you suffered. Our truck accident attorneys have received numerous commendations and garnered several accolades from esteemed institutions recognizing our passionate, tenacious, and expert legal advocacy.

Fighting a truck company’s legal counsel and insurance company for the rights to the data on the truck’s ECM can prove to be difficult on your own. Our attorneys can swiftly jump into action to ensure your legal rights are protected. Call us today or contact us online via our quick contact form.