FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 24, 2012
SCHUMER: IMPROPERLY USED GPS DEVICES CAUSING DOZENS OF TRUCKS TO HIT OVERPASSES ON LI EACH YEAR – WILL CALL FOR INVESTIGATION INTO CAUSE OF PROBLEM, AND FOR NATIONAL STANDARDS FOR GPS
In Addition to Being Potentially Life Threatening, Bridge Strikes Cause Massive Delays and Impose Significant Costs on Taxpayers
Hundreds of Trucks Have Hit Highway Overpasses in Previous Years – Many Trucks Led on to Inappropriate Parkways By Misused GPS Systems
Schumer Will Call For Federal Department of Transportation To Conduct Investigation Into Frequent Bridge Strikes Nationwide And Issue Standards For GPS and Other Equipment To Reduce Costly Bridge Strike Accidents
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on the Federal Department of Transportation to conduct an investigation into the dramatic increase in low bridge strikes by commercial trucks across New York State, and issue nation-wide standards for Global Positioning System (GPS) devices in trucks. Schumer pointed to the shocking regularity with which trucks are striking overpasses after being led onto roads they shouldn’t be on by GPS devices, and noted that no rules govern the use of such devices in commercial vehicles. The absence of standards results in many situations in which trucks use GPS devices that do not differentiate between roads on which trucks are allowed and on which they are not. They are led onto roads on which it is illegal for them to travel, such as the Southern State Parkway and North State Parkway on Long Island, where they collide with the low overpasses.
Schumer stood at the Eagle Avenue overpass, which spans the Southern State Parkway at exit 18. The overpass has been struck a total of 27 times by trucks that are prohibited from driving on the parkway.
“These accidents are frequent, costly, dangerous and entirely avoidable,” said Schumer. “All the information we need to prevent these accidents is available, all we have to do is make sure it gets into the hands of the truck. If we have the technology to send a truck to Mars, we have the technology to prevent trucks from crashing into bridges here in Long Island.”
Commercial truck traffic is prohibited on New York State Parkways such as the Southern and Northern State Parkways on Long Island, the Hutchinson and Saw Mill Parkways in the Hudson Valley, and the FDR and Bronx River Parkway in New York City. Overpasses constructed over these parkways were built, in some cases, over seventy years ago, and at low heights. Although these parkways consist of numerous warning and directional signs alerting commercial drivers of the dangers, basic GPS devices often do not show these restrictions and funnels trucks into major danger zones.
According to a recent NYS Department of Transportation study, over 200 bridge accidents per year have occurred in New York since 2005. Of that total, over 25% of these accidents occurred in Nassau, Suffolk or Westchester counties. Forty-three bridges have been hit on Long Island’s parkways in 2011. According to a 2009 study, 80% of bridge strikes are caused by misused GPS devices. Schumer noted that these accidents, in addition to being life threatening, cause massive delays and impose significant costs on taxpayers.
Major repairs on the Long Island Expressway connected to these type of accidents have cost taxpayers $4.1million in recent years, according to the NYS Department of Transportation.
Schumer today is calling on The Department of Transportation to investigate these low bridge strikes by commercial truck drivers to determine more about their root cause. Schumer is also asking the Department of Transportation to issue nation-wide standards for GPS devices in order to ensure that trucks no longer rely exclusively on GPS units that are not programmed with information that will lead them into dangerous situations. Schumer made the case that new standards on GPS devices would reduce the cost imposed on taxpayers and prevent any deadly accidents from occurring.
Although many bridge strikes go unreported, below are the statistics of reported bridge strikes for Long Island and New York City.
2010: 51 reported strikes
2011: 43 reported strikes
New York City:
2010: 61 reported strikes
2011: 49 reported strikes
2012: 36 reported strikes (through August 8, 2012)
855 bridge strikes since between 1993 and 2011, with 668 of these crashes occurring in Westchester
A full copy of Senator Schumer’s letter is below:
Dear Secretary LaHood,
I write to urge you to investigate the dramatic increase in low bridge strikes by commercial trucks across New York State as a result of the growing use of Global Positioning Technology (GPS) by drivers. As a staunch advocate for safe roads and safe driving practices, I know you will be alarmed to learn that GPS-related bridge strikes in New York now represent over 80% of all such accidents. Despite the great efforts of the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) to increase signage and develop new alert systems for drivers over the past number of years, reports from local police organizations continue to fault the reliance on basic GPS technology as the main culprit in many of these low-bridge commercial truck accidents. These accidents represent a great nuisance for the public and the taxpayer, as they continue to increase the cost of bridge repairs, clog up our roadways, and increase the potential of catastrophe in the event of a hazardous spill. As such, I implore the Department and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to investigate this problem and consider developing new federal standards for the use of GPS technology in commercial truck travel.
New York State, particularly in the downstate suburbs of Westchester, Rockland, Nassau and Suffolk, is a unique target for GPS-related accidents. As you may know, commercial truck traffic is prohibited on New York State Parkways like the Southern and Northern State on Long Island and the Hutchinson and Saw Mill Parkways in the Hudson River Valley. Road bridge overpasses constructed over those networks were built, in some cases, over 50 years ago and at artificially low heights. Despite the fact that on many of these roads there exists a plethora of warning and directional signs alerting commercial drivers not to use these parkways, basic GPS technology does not heed these messages and funnels massive freight trucks into a major danger zone. According to a recent NYSDOT study, about 200 bridge accidents per year have occurred in New York State since 2005. Of that total, over 25% of those accidents occur in Nassau, Suffolk or Westchester counties.
The lack of a coherent policy with respect to GPS equipment in commercial trucking operations comes at no small cost. According to NYSDOT, major repairs on the Long Island Expressway connected to these accidents cost taxpayers $4.1 million alone. Moreover, the State has spent $3 million for 300 new bridge warning signs and efforts to educate truck drivers in the past five years. Finally, the State’s Bridge Strike Mitigation Task Force has engaged GPS companies to implement technical changes to address the problem as well. Unfortunately, however, the scourge of accidents continue.
Therefore, I again urge you to use your authority under existing federal safety laws and the available resources at the Department’s disposal to investigate this matter and issue a set of recommended federal standards to address the problem.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact my Washington office.
Charles E. Schumer