Sen. Charles Schumer and FMCSA Administrator Ann Ferro stand at the Eagle Avenue overpass in New York, 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.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will begin issuing official recommendations to members of the commercial trucking industry on the proper uses of Global Positioning System navigation devices and incorporate GPS training into new entry-level certification programs for commercial motor vehicle operators.
This means that 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, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer called on the Department of Transportation 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 over 80% of all such accidents. Schumer has been working with the DOT on investigating this problem and, alongside FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro, announced that major steps are being taken to address GPS-related bridge strikes.
The FMCSA will implement a two-step solution to address low bridge strikes by commercial trucks as a result of GPS devices.
First, FMSCA will begin distributing official recommendations which will prescribe to the industry how to use GPS devices in commercial motor vehicles. The recommendations will be issued in brochures and flyers and will be distributed to operators throughout the region. For example, tips will include recommendations to select professional grade navigation systems, instructions to input the size, axle weight and other important details of the commercial truck into the GPS, and important tips on avoiding distracted driving.
Second, last year's highway funding bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, required that FMCSA finish a new entry-level certification program for commercial motor vehicle operators. As part of this new rulemaking, FMSCA agreed to include a GPS training component in response to the dramatic increase in low-bridge strikes.
Schumer revealed the details of this national campaign to reduce low-bridge strikes through new training and safety visor cards. According to a 2009 study, 80% of bridge strikes in New York State are caused by misused GPS devices, and the accidents, in addition to being life threatening, cause massive delays and impose significant costs on taxpayers. Schumer said there was more work to be done, but this was a very significant step towards improving safety and reducing these accidents. The new GPS training would be proposed as a component of a federal rulemaking for entry-level commercial driver license certification later this year.
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 N.Y. Department of Transportation study, over 200 bridge accidents per year have occurred in New York since 2005. Of that total, over 25% 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 $4.1 million in recent years, according to the NYS Department of Transportation.