Senator calls for GPS standards for trucks

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | Monday, September 24, 2012

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, says GPS devices are to blame for leading trucks onto roadways where they can collide with low-clearance bridges.

Schumer’s office notified OOIDA on Monday that the senator plans to ask the U.S. Department of Transportation to issue specific GPS standards for trucks to reduce the number of bridge strikes.

Truckers familiar with the aging New York infrastructure say problems with bridge strikes can be tied to inexperience as well as the type of devices some truckers carry.

“The problem is GPS units that people use that are not for trucks; they’re for cars,” New York trucker Bob Bohm said. “It runs these guys onto the parkways and it takes their tops off.”

Sen. Schumer is citing an August 2011 report titled Bridge Vehicle Impact Assessment, published by the New York State Department of Transportation, to make his case.

The report evaluated crash hotspots in the state and New York City, and indicated that as many as 80 percent of truck strikes on low-clearance bridges involved the use – or misuse – of GPS devices that routed trucks onto parkways.

“A majority of these trucks are from out-of-state locations,” the report authors stated.

The report notes more issues at play than just GPS. In some cases, the posted warning signs were inadequate or placed too close to the bridge to make a difference.

“By the time a truck driver sees these signs, it is already too late for them to stop,” the report authors noted, adding that warnings in some areas were “hardly visible” during the night.

Another portion of the study said a Kensington Expressway bridge with a clearance of 14 feet, 10 inches – a height that should not pose a problem for most trucks – was hit somewhat frequently “as a result of trucks bouncing on a bump on the road under the bridge.”

The report noted that many drivers were simply not aware of their vehicle dimensions.

“It seems that a majority of drivers entering parkways and hitting bridges aren’t aware of the height of their truck with the cargo,” the authors stated in response to one trouble spot.

In addition to local regions, the NYSDOT surveyed other states about GPS-related bridge strikes for the report.

Of 41 states surveyed, 35 reported no bridge strikes related to GPS routing of trucks. Two states reported between one and five incidents during the past year while four states reported more than 10 incidents.

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