Channel 19

Todd Dills

Readers: GPS regs won’t fill a void of common sense

| September 27, 2012

When politicians try to get funny it’s, well, funny — and maybe a few other adjectives I could mention.

Consider this, from U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer’s call for federal truck GPS-unit standards to help mitigate what he sees as a growing number of bridge-strike accidents in his state, New York:

These accidents are frequent, costly, dangerous and entirely avoidable…. If we have the technology to send a truck to Mars, we have the technology to prevent trucks from crashing into bridges.

First of all, Chuck, the appropriate definition of “truck” in Webster’s goes this way: “a wheeled vehicle for moving heavy articles.” Note the “moving heavy articles” portion of that.

The most recently landed and largest Mars rover (dubbed “Curiosity,” and pictured here in testing), just as the others, is an exploring/light-article-sampling sort of vehicle, last time I checked, measuring a small — by most acceptable standards of “truck” definition —  10 feet long, 9 feet wide and 7 feet tall. NASA scientists liken its size to that of a “small SUV.”

And, as so many of you have noted in comments on news of Schumer’s outcry (and as I noted at the end of my last post), there is no justifiable technological excuse for getting caught under a low bridge. Any self-respecting driver ought to know enough to take that mistake on the chin, as it were.

“Don’t blindly trust any GPS!” Zharman Prior noted on Overdrive‘s Facebook page. “You were taught to read every sign you pass, pertinent or not, and when in doubt, get out and look.”

Lee Rexroad, then, also on Facebook: “I drive my truck. I use GPS for help with directions. If there is any doubt on a bridge height I will stop before going under it. We can blame GPS, when it actually is the driver” who is at fault.

And, Chuck, a few commenters also took their offended sense of personal responsibility as ship captains in another direction: “Hey NYC! Raise your bridges!” quipped Sean Day.

In the end, there’s probably no substitute for driver common sense and a good map.


  • Richard M. Gaskill
  • Robert Pulliam

    I can empathize with drivers in Yew Nork. The first time I came to a bridge and the sign said 13′ 1″ I slammed on the brakes and got out to check it out another driver in his 4wheeler stopped to tell me that was the clearance with 5″ of snow under it, duh! Why would you list a bridge clearance for 5″ of snow? Of course that’s probably the same logic used to number exits in numerical order instead of mile marker like the rest of the country does. Just 2 of the reasons I hate driving in the northeast, I have a whole list of other reasons but that’s another story.

  • jescott418

    Accident happen because of no signage, unprepared drivers, miss information from directions. It just does not happen. I think the fact that a lot of this could be avoided in big cities by having local drivers be required to deliver freight. A road driver many times has never been to a customer before or that area. Having local delivery allows for less problems and better informed drivers. We need to stop the big over length trucks from driving around lost.

  • Todd Dills

    Good points, Robert, most definitely.

  • EagleOne

    New Yorks signage is terrible and if you stop to check the height a policeman will threaten to tow you if you don’t move!

  • Mtnflyer

    I smacked a bridge in Kansas City with about the top one inch of my truck fairing and my stack. The highway department was out there doing work on the underpass; they had a thousand cones set up and the road narrowed down to one narrow lane under the overpass. I was so focused on the construction and not hitting the cones that I did not look at the clearance. I literally got a case of “tunnel vision” and didn’t see the forest for the trees.
    When I hit that overpass, it was a rude awakening! And yes, I was following my “non truck GPS” at the time, going from an unload to reload in K.C.
    Now, I could say it was the GPS’s fault. I could blame it on the road construction. Or I could do what I did, which was to be very disgusted with myself and learn from my own stupid mistake. Fortunately, the damage was minimal to my truck and none to the bridge, which had been hit about 1,000 times before, from the marks I saw on it :-)
    We don’t need a new expensive governmant “solution” to this “problem”. As long as trucks drive, and as long as there are low overpasses, they will be hit by trucks whose drivers are driving with their head up their … Just like I was that day. It is just going to happen.
    You cannot create a government “solution” for every problem. You CAN create an expensive new government program, I guess, in an effort to combat the “problem”. Geez, that never happens in this country….
    I dont’ drive full time anymore, but I can guarantee you I look at the clearance of about anything I drive under, even in my Miata!

  • gofer

    I haul a lot of overheight loads and frankly I must trust the state permit office to send me on the proper route for my stated height. Often times there are no places to stop on a highway to measure a bridge, not to mention the 70mph traffic traveling under said bridge while you are trying to measure it. Many states do not post bridge height signs. While I am not a big fan of government solutions, having a standardized GPS system to alert you to low bridges sounds like a great idea to me.

  • Larry Hartman

    Just stay out of New York. I went upstate last month, first time in at least 10 years. Cost me over $4,200 for state police escort for 240 miles. I can say it will NEVER happen again!

  • stretch

    I do believe that not all bridge accidents are the fault of the driver because alot of bridges are miss marked or not marked at all and every driver should have a phone number to where they are going to check for the unexpected

  • brooklynhitman

    My friends I have to deal with whom we affectionately call “chuckie cheese”every sunday he has to be on tv with one of his brainstorms and we wonder why the country is so screwed up,by the way I happen to live in hi old district in Brooklyn.Chuckie chukie chukie……

  • brooklynhitman

    I got a good one for you in nyc they dont put signs up for truck routes it is up to you to figure that out,I love this city……(just been sarcastic)

  • brooklynhitman

    white signals are actual height yellow ones give you one foot snow height tricky hah

  • gofer

    I don’t haul oversize loads that require police escorts unless the shipper agrees to pay the invoiced costs. I went 120 miles in AZ and police escorts were $2400.00, shipper paid.

  • tater

    YOU HAVENT SEEN ANYTHING YET,,,when they impose the newest safety measure for us(e-logs) you are gona see more bridges torn down more accidents than ever as you are putting more time restraints on the trucking industry. All
    i see from e-logs is someone who has been sitting on a dock half the day hitting the road with his foot through the floorboard, running stop signs, getting lodged under bridges, cutting everyone off because he needs to try and make a dime before his clock stops, yes sir, E-LOGS are definately the answer for safer trucks,,,lol,

  • DSchwartz

    Chuckie Schmuckie . . .Sheesh! Who is dumber, Schumer, Boxer, or Pelosi?

  • TruckerJohn

    Most of the bridges & low clearances within NYC are generally posted a foot lower than what they actually are so if you hit one it’s your fault by a 12″ margin.

  • mr.magoo

    God forbid you have a Garmin gps for trucks. Its more screwed up than the signage.

  • Todd Dills

    Thanks for the thoughts, Mtn. Sometimes lessons are hard-won, eh?

  • Todd Dills

    Wanted to chime in that I saw this one, Rick — thanks for sharing. Now that is something else, I have to say.

  • Cathy Guignet

    there is a nice device that attaches to the mirror bracket that warns of a low clearance problem. Inexpensive and works.

  • Todd Dills

    Eagle, I’ve heard a lot of confusion, too, over the “snow height” signs in New York, though given they’re posted showing a height lower than actual (no underhanging snow) height, I bet they tie up traffic on occasion when drivers unfamiliar with the area get out to check the height. Eh?

  • Todd Dills

    Cathy, what’s the device? You’ve used, I take it?

  • Easton Ezx Xavier

    It would be a good case for Chuck, IF NYC and NY State did not mislabel their bridges. As has been shown in more than one place from Brooklyn to Buffalo, there are numerous 12’6 and 12’2″ bridges you can fit a 13’6″ truck through. Now go figure that one out. strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.