2009-10-16 03:13:49 UTC
ALBANY, N.Y. New York state wants to crack down on truckers
who rely on satellite devices to direct them onto faster but
prohibited routes and end up crashing into overpasses that are
too low for their rigs.
Gov. David Paterson on Wednesday proposed penalties including
jail time and confiscation of trucks to come down on drivers who
use GPS global positioning systems to take more hazardous
routes and end up striking bridges.
"To our knowledge, no other state has similar legislation," said
Clayton Boyce of the American Trucking Associations, an industry
trade group based in Washington.
"Most trucking companies rely on GPS services that are
specifically for trucks and route them away from restricted
roads," he said. "Most of our members also use dispatching and
fleet management systems that direct and track the vehicles by
truck GPS services."
In New York, a truckers' group called the proposal unfair and
"We understand that bridge strikes have become an increasing
problem for Westchester County and the New York metropolitan
area," said Karin Kennett of the New York State Motor Truck
Association. Requiring all trucks in the state that are using
GPS to buy an enhanced device goes too far, she said.
"It places an unfair and unwarranted financial burden on every
law-abiding trucking company doing business anywhere in New York
at a time when our state claims to be trying to improve our
business climate," Kennett said.
A safety group said trucks taking restricted routes is a scary
fact of life on the nation's highways and parkways and something
other states will need to consider as more drivers turn to GPS.
Gerald Donaldson, senior research director of Advocates for
Highway and Auto Safety, said GPS adds to the list of
electronics that also distract truckers, including radios, cell
phones and a computer keyboard to communicate with companies and
"GPS is the heart of it," Donaldson said. "Absolutely ... other
states will be looking at Gov. Paterson's issue."
GPS can direct truckers, many of them carrying hazardous
material, to restricted roads with overpass clearances too low
for the rigs. Hauling on restricted or residential routes also
pounds the life out of roads because the trucks are over weight
limits and clog traffic.
"GPS for some truckers are crucial, and it also is part of a
much larger array of electronic devices," he said. "You get paid
by the mile, so it's your to your incentive to get as many miles
and routes as you can in your tour of duty."
New York state alone has seen more than 1,400 bridge strikes in
the past 15 years, including 46 so far this year in suburban
Westchester County, testing many old bridges already in need of
repair, said County Executive Andrew J. Spano. One bridge in his
county was hit nine times this year.
"This sort of culture of just following the GPS and almost
ignoring the road signs has created this public hazard,"
Paterson told reporters.
"Every week we hear of another truck striking a bridge on our
parkways," said Spano, standing with Paterson at the bill's
"It's only a matter of time before someone is killed or a truck
carrying chemicals or explosives hits a bridge," he said.
The bill would increase penalties for illegally using parkways
and require all large commercial trucks to use GPS devices that
route them away from restricted roads. It would also stick
trucking companies or their insurance carriers with the bill for
repairs and cleanup after bridge strikes.
The bill could hit the Legislature as early as January.