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Recipe for disaster: commercial trucks with faulty GPS directions

Continued commercial truck accidents caused by faulty GPS technology have prompted one U.S. Senator to call for the government to step in and demand improved standards for global positioning units, while many industry experts think the task of regulation should be kept in the hands of the trucking industry itself.

GPS units are a common feature in many buses and commercial trucks, but one shortcoming of this technology is its routine failure to account for low-lying bridges, overpasses and other obstructions that could be struck by a large vehicle. In New York, for example, 200 bridges were hit by commercial vehicles in 2010 that were traveling on roads going underneath the obstructions. It was later determined that 80 percent of the accidents could be attributed to GPS technology.

This technology is supposed to consider the size of a vehicle when giving it directions from point A to point B, but all too often the GPS fails in this regard, causing semi tractor-trailer accidents and other large truck crashes that should be easily avoided. The technological shortcoming is a threat to truckers across the nation, and certainly in Ohio, with its large volume of commercial truck traffic.

Nationally, there were 15,000 such truck crashes in 2010, resulting in 214 deaths and more than 3,000 injuries. Bridge strikes are not a new thing — some older bridges can claim hundreds of truck strikes over the course of their operation — but many feel that GPS technology is easily capable of preventing these accidents from occurring.

The American Trucking Associations believes that GPS manufacturers should do a better job of improving their technology, but they are opposed to government regulation, saying that cooperation between trucking organizations, GPS manufacturers and technology firms should be enough to remedy the problem.

Source: Bloomberg, “Truckers guided by GPS said to hit N.Y. bridges 200 times,” Jeff Plungis, Sept. 24, 2012