If anyone in our industry thinks using standard, off-the-shelf GPS units in trucks will work, we suggest they visit Indianapolis.
Pity the poor Virginia Avenue Bridge in downtown Indianapolis. Up to 70 trucks have smashed into this structure in recent years. In fact, Indiana seems to be a veritable magnet for truck/bridge strikes. CNBC.com, where this story appeared, quotes Nathan Riggs, a spokesman for the Indiana DOT’s Greenfield District, “More than 400 collisions have been recorded at seven city bridges over the 1-65/I-70 ‘South Split’ since 1999, and the frequency and severity of the vehicle-bridge strikes has increased in recent years.”
ATA spokesman Sean McNally says that off-the-shelf global positioning systems may be the culprit in a large number of these cases. He states that it’s not that there’s been an increase in truck weights or sizes; it’s that those trucks are where they shouldn’t be. This is not the first time we’ve heard about this problem. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) last year cited reports from police organizations that said GPS issues were the cause of more than 80% of bridge strikes in New York State. His work with the FMCSA has resulted in that agency recommending the use of specialized GPS units by commercial drivers. Every good driver knows that there are roads where trucks are prohibited. A truck-specific GPS will note that and not send a driver that route; a standard GPS for cars will not know the difference and may list a prohibitive route. An unobservant commercial driver, unfamiliar with the road, may not read the signs and go where they are not supposed to. To boost that point, the CNBC article states that GPS units have directed drivers into sloughs, into oncoming traffic, and to the edge of cliffs.
The main problem for the Virginia Avenue Bridge in Indianapolis is its 13 feet, 11 inches clearance in the northbound lanes (the southbound lanes has a posted clearance of 14 feet). Existing laws require drivers to get a permit for any loads measuring 13 feet, 6 inches and above. Projected changes which would elevate the clearance height may eliminate most of the bridge strikes. Time will tell.
If you want to sympathize with this poor bridge, take a look at the CNBC.com video.
We’d be interested in hearing about any issues you may have had, either with an off-the-shelf or truck-specific GPS.
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