Bill would make truckers' 'black box' info private

| Thursday, July 31, 2003

A bill in California would prevent anyone other than a truckdriver from using the information in a truck’s onboard data recorders from using the information without the trucker’s permission.  

The devices, called event data recorders or sensing and diagnostic modules – more commonly known as EDRs or SDMs – are common in modern trucks and many makes and models of automobile.  

Typically, the devices store only a few seconds of information, usually a few seconds before and after an accident. That information can include speed, use of brakes, steering wheel position and other engine and operational statistics.  

Under AB213, the information contained in the EDRs cannot be downloaded unless there is a court order demanding it; the owner of the vehicle gives his or her consent; or it is used for “safety purposes,” but not associated with the driver’s name. In addition, the bill would prohibit whoever received the information from sharing with anyone else. 

The bill was targeted at EDRs in cars, but the bill applies to all “motor vehicles,” including big trucks. 

Kevin O’Neill, the legislative director for bill sponsor Assemblyman Tim Leslie, R-Roseville, said lawyers at the General Assembly clarified that the bill would cover trucks.

 “The definition under California code of a tractor-trailer, they call it a motor tractor,” he said. “A motor tractor is defined as a motor vehicle, so this bill would apply as it is currently written.” 

AB213 would also require vehicle makers to disclose in the owner's manual that the vehicle contains EDRs or SDMs.  

Vehicle makers would have some time to meet the new requirements; the bill, if passed would affect vehicles made after July 1, 2004.  

According to The Sacramento Bee, while the bill has not gathered many supporters, it also has not gathered powerful opponents. Spokesmen for General Motors and the California Highway Patrol have indicated their organizations have no position for or against the measure.  

The Assembly unanimously approved the measure earlier this year, 72-0. It was also approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee during a 6-0 vote July 10. AB213 is now before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

  --by Mark H. Reddig, associate editor

 Mark Reddig can be reached at mreddig@landlinemag.com.

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