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GPS use doubled within CMV market since 2009, survey says

The increase in utilization is among the findings from the first phase of a two-part research initiative aimed at assessing the use of navigation systems in large trucks, ATRI officials said.

The Trucker News Services


ARLINGTON, Va. — The use of global positioning systems within the commercial vehicle market has doubled since 2009, a survey released recently by the American Transportation Research Institute revealed.

ATRI is the not-for-profit research arm of the American Trucking Associations.

The increase in utilization is among the findings from the first phase of a two-part research initiative aimed at assessing the use of navigation systems in large trucks, ATRI officials said.

The first phase of the research, which analyzed survey data from more than 800 drivers and carriers, identifies different systems and how they are used, as well as industry perceptions of navigation system effectiveness.

The survey showed the rapid increase in use of GPS in the commercial market.

In 2007, the utilization rate was 11 percent, in 2008 it was 19 percent and in 2009 it was 27 percent, all compared to the 54 percent utilization in 2012.

The survey report said that shipments of navigation systems which totaled 3 million units will reach 7.5 million by 2015.

Overall results indicate high levels of use and trust in navigation system technology by industry stakeholders, especially among new drivers (less than one-year experience) and large carriers (250 or more power units).

According to the carrier respondents, 51 percent allowed or encouraged their drivers to use navigation systems. Furthermore, 51 percent of carriers supplied navigation systems in their fleets. According to the driver respondents, 88 percent of their carrier employers allowed or encouraged navigation system use.

The report notes that numerous news articles about navigation systems have provided anecdotal support for the proposition that the systems may have been a contributing, or even primary, factor in many large truck crashes.

However, only 2 percent of driver respondents indicated that, at some point in their career, they had been involved in a crash that they believe was caused by directions or information provided by a navigation system. Responses from carriers imply a similarly low rate.

One of the most widely publicized articles came when U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., asked the U.S. Department of Transportation to conduct an investigation into what he called a “dramatic increase” in low bridge strikes by commercial trucks across New York state and to issue nationwide standards for GPS devices on large trucks.

Officials for companies that manufacture and sell navigation systems, when contacted by The Trucker, said they felt many of the bridge strikes were the result of commercial vehicles using systems principally designed for passenger vehicles, which may result in a truck driver following directions and routes that are inappropriate for large trucks.

Indeed, while the majority of driver respondents (54 percent) who used a navigation system used one specifically designed for commercial trucks, nearly one-third (31 percent) used a car-oriented navigation system.

The New York State Department of Transportation said 81 percent of the bridge strikes were a consequence of large trucks using non-commercial or outdated systems.

Schumer’s pleas to the DOT resulted in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to formally caution commercial vehicle drivers about the use of inappropriate GPS systems.

Despite the high utilization of navigation systems, a Land Line Magazine poll of nearly 500 drivers in 2012 revealed that a standard truck road atlas was the most preferred method among the survey’s routing options (69 percent), followed by a GPS routing device (54 percent), GPS load technology (21 percent), and route planning software (19 percent).

“Nonetheless, GPS navigation products and internet-based map services are quickly replacing the atlas,” the ATRI report said. “Older drivers may still prefer paper maps, but the preponderance of consumers are switching to digital sources for their navigation needs.”

“This research is an important first step in understanding the role of navigation systems in large truck crashes.  By identifying the types of systems used, how drivers use them, and the types of crashes that may result from their use, industry stakeholders and policy makers can begin to implement crash mitigation strategies and hopefully, reduce the overall occurrence of these events,” commented Kendra Hems, president of the New York State Motor Truck Association. 

Furthermore, ATRI said the study identifies the key priorities that navigation system providers should address in order to meet the needs of the trucking industry.  ATRI’s phase two work will expand the research by collecting and comparing quantitative data from navigation systems while in use.  This next step will attempt to identify the technical basis for navigation system failures and inadequacies from a truck operations perspective, ATRI said.

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