New York Bridge Strikes Fuels New Federal GPS Rules

by Jana Ritter - Published: 3/11/2013

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has begun distributing cards to truck drivers warning them that using navigation GPS devices meant for smaller vehicles can be dangerous and could lead to trucks hitting low bridges. FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro and New York Senator Charles Schumer announced the GPS recommendations Monday at a Scarsdale, N.Y., bridge that is often hit by trucks.


FMCSA posted its official recommendations on its website as a “visor card,” meant for drivers to keep in their trucks. It urges use of GPS devices designed for large trucks that incorporate road restrictions such as low bridges — and directs truck drivers on how to avoid them. “These brand new federal standards for GPS use among 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 for far too long,” Schumer said.

The senator first took up the issue following a bridge strike on the Hutchinson Parkway and in September, he called for standardized truck-specific GPS devices to prevent commercial vehicles from driving on the parkways from which they are banned. Today, he made the formal announcement of new rules the FMCSA is putting in place. “I'm 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 …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,” he said.

Schumer said police figures show that 80 percent of bridge strikes statewide are GPS-related. While commercial truck traffic is banned on New York State Parkways because the overpasses are typically too low for trucks to drive under, a recent New York State Department of Transportation study found that there have been more than 200 bridge accidents a year since 2005.

“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.

In addition to brochures and fliers that will be distributed by the FMCSA to truck operators, the federal agency will also have a mandatory entry-level certification program from commercial truck drivers. “This sort of outreach campaign combined with driver training for CDL [commercial drivers license] holders will, in fact, solve the problem,” Ferro added.

Schumer says the federal transportation officials will begin distributing official recommendations about the proper use of GPS devices in commercial vehicles. Tips will include instructions to input the size, axle weight and other important details of the commercial truck into the GPS. “Education will solve this as long as they have an alternative, which they now have,” Schumer said.