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Regulators respond to problem of trucks striking low bridges

If, while driving, you've ever thought that some bridges across roadways seem unduly low for some of the commercial trucks busily engaged in transit, your instincts are correct: With alarming frequency, big rigs do not have enough clearance to pass safely beneath bridges, and crash as a result.

In some states, such as New York, that frequency of occurrence strikes some as being close to an epidemic, and federal safety regulators are now taking strong proactive measures geared toward reducing truck accidents owing to bridge strikes.

What officials from the FMCSA have discovered is that the underlying cause of many large trucks colliding with low bridges is truckers' reliance on GPS navigation devices that are not appropriately tailored to the specifics of bigger and heavier commercial rigs.

In other words, drivers of big rigs are often relying on GPS systems meant to be used for smaller trucks that can in fact pass safely underneath those bridges.

When the big rigs can't, fatal truck crashes are a common outcome, along with road closures and huge clean-up costs.

Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), in noting the large number of low bridge strikes that occur in his state, has made strong calls for regulatory action to lessen the risk nationally.

The FMCSA has responded to the concerns, and in a statement last week announced new steps that will hopefully reduce bridge strikes.

One of those is an "official recommendation" from the FMCSA that all commercial truckers keep a newly designed "visor card" in their rigs that explains the proper use of GPS for their vehicles. A second step is upcoming training for new drivers that is mandated by the recently passed national transportation bill.

Source: Transport Topics Online, "FMCSA warns truckers to use truck-specific GPS," March 11, 2013

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