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History Of Commercial Vehicle Recorders

The oldest recording device on commercial vehicles is the tachograph. Used in numerous countries throughout the world, it has been in existence for decades. In the early 1980’s, solid state based recorders were introduced in North America. One of the oldest is the Rockwell Tripmaster product. As electronic engines began to take hold after 1985, engine manufacturers looked to take advantage of the computer driving the engine. This developed into recording features within the engine computer connections to display the data for the driver. In time, the driver displays of some of these manufacturers became recording devices.

At the same time that electronic engines were being introduced, mobile radio, satellite and cellular telephone based equipment was being introduced into commercial vehicles. This equipment was originally intended solely for helping with the routing and tracking of the vehicle to help with logistics management. However, as the engines became electronic, providing additional information, and as the users of trip recorders asked for more features, these communications systems became full featured trip recorders with many monitoring capabilities.

More recently, antilock brake controls have become required on commercial vehicles of almost all sizes. However, as time progresses and suppliers look to differentiate their products, it is expected that additional recording features may become part of these computers. Vehicle OEM’s have looked to the use of the standardized data link on commercial vehicles, combined with the necessity of including engine and brake computers. As a result, most vehicle OEMs offer dash equipment and instrument clusters that read information off this data bus. In some cases, this is recorded and in others it is just displayed to the driver. As least one vehicle OEM has taken that a step further and provides a data logging unit that records information much like the flight recorders of aircraft.

These are called Event Data Recorders; know as EDR’s or the tagged name Vorad as one of the manufacturers growing in the industry. They are now complimenting information as an additional “Black Box”. These are highly accurate and serve additional information using radar type snapshots also linked to the engine information through the data link. This can also track the same information as well as lane changes, etc. The day is coming when this style of radar could be used for accident investigation and legal action as well as radar type snapshots around you or in front of your vehicle. Imagine if all trucks had radar of oncoming vehicles and an oncoming automobile came across the median and made contact with the vehicle directly in front or behind you. Not being in the accident, you could be part of the investigation. We believe that this will be mandated and regulated in our lifetime by the federal government.

These types of recorders are now available with radar and automobiles have various EDR’s tracking everything from air bag deployment to speed and stability control.

The future of rollover stability for trucks is here today and soon this will also be a part of ECM, ECU, and EDRs for accident prevention or investigation.

"Your assistance in analyzing the data from the Caterpillar ECM helped in settling the case. We learned from your involvement, which assisted in a settlement."
M Peterson, Peterson Law Firm


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