Federal Steps Taken to Reduce GPS-Caused Bridge Strikes by Oversized Trucks

March 13, 2013  - By
Image: GPS World

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will begin issuing official recommendations to members of the commercial trucking industry on the proper uses of GPS devices and incorporate GPS training into new entry-level certification programs for commercial motor vehicle operators.

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, joined by Administrator Anne Ferro of the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), held two press conferences in the New York City area on March 11 to alert commercial vehicle drivers to the importance of using updated, professional-quality GPS devices to prevent routes that include height-restricted overpasses and bridges.

Administrator Ferro also announced the availability of a GPS safety visor card for truck and bus drivers, now downloadable at www.fmcsa.dot.gov (and pictured above).

Richard Langley of GPS World provided guidelines for consumers in a newspaper article in January about GPS use, which he spelled out in ten helpful tips. The tips also apply to commercial drivers.

Under the recommendations, commercial drivers will be trained, and reminded, to only use GPS systems designed specifically for the industry. These specialized units take into account the specifics of the truck they’re in — including the height, weight and contents — and will then route the trucks onto appropriate roads. The consumer GPS units too often being used are frequently routing trucks onto inappropriate roads, causing them to crash into low overpasses and bridges.

In September, Schumer called on the Department of Transportation (DOT) to investigate the dramatic increase in low bridge strikes by commercial trucks across New York State as a result of the growing use of GPS by drivers. According to reports from local police organizations, GPS-related bridge strikes in New York represent more than 80 percent of all such accidents. The accidents, in addition to being life threatening, cause massive delays and impose significant costs on taxpayers.

In one press conference, Schumer and Administrator Ferro stood at the Eagle Avenue overpass, which spans the Southern State Parkway at exit 18. The overpass has been struck at least 27 times by trucks that are prohibited from driving on the parkway.

“These education and training campaigns for commercial truck drivers will be the first major steps to thwarting life-threatening bridge strikes that have been causing massive delays and imposing significant costs on taxpayers with increasing frequency in recent years,” said Schumer. “These steps will help to once again make GPS devices an asset to drivers, and not a dangerously misused tool. I am pleased that the DOT heeded my call for reforms and I am confident that the combination of official recommendations and GPS training will limit the number of low-bridge strikes across Long Island. Thank you to FMCSA Administrator Ferro for recognizing the importance of this serious issue and for implementing a proactive approach towards teaching the industry how to eliminate GPS-related accidents.”

“Even one truck or bus striking an overpass is one too many, which is why we’re taking action to ensure professional truck and bus drivers know the importance of selecting the right navigation system,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro.

Commercial truck traffic is prohibited on New York State Parkways such as the Southern and Northern State Parkways on Long Island, the Hutchinson and Saw Mill Parkways in the Hudson Valley, and the FDR and Bronx River Parkway in New York City. Overpasses constructed over these parkways were built, in some cases, over 50 years ago, and at low heights. Although these parkways consist of numerous warning and directional signs alerting commercial drivers of the dangers, basic GPS devices often do not show these restrictions and funnel trucks into major danger zones.

According to a recent NYS Department of Transportation study, more than 200 bridge accidents per year have occurred in New York since 2005. Of that total, more than 25 percent of these accidents occurred in Nassau, Suffolk or Westchester counties. Major repairs on the Long Island Expressway connected to these types of accidents have cost taxpayers $4.1million in recent years, according to the NYS Department of Transportation.

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