It’s time to quit blaming navigation apps for bad driving

April 12, 2021

Tyson Fisher

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Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., is urging Google and Apple to update their navigation apps with truck-specific information, but are they really to blame when truckers violate certain road restrictions?

Blumenthal sent the letters out on April 5 expressing his concern of the lack of information on smartphone navigation apps like Google Maps, Waze and Apple Maps. Specifically, these apps do not include commercial vehicle info like height clearance, weight limits, and hazmat restrictions. Consequently, truckers who use these apps to navigate their routes are being directed to places where they should not be, increasing the risk of infrastructure damage and fatal crashes.

If this sounds familiar, it is because Blumenthal sent pretty much the same letter in January 2020. Apparently, trucks are constantly ending up on Merritt and Wilbur Cross parkways in his home state, which prohibit large vehicles. In his recent letter, Blumenthal gives other examples of Google and Apple apps taking truckers where they do not belong, including striking bridges and a fatal crash as a result of being on the wrong road. Blumenthal is blaming Google and Apple for all of these incidents.

“Your company has a significant role to play in averting these hazards,” Blumenthal states in the letter. “Often, truck drivers blame their global positioning (satellite) systems for leading them onto restricted roadways. While commercial vehicle-specific navigation systems do exist, access is often limited without paying a hefty fee for a subscription. As such, drivers turn to your services, which do not include all the necessary roadway information vital to planning their routes. Users of these navigation applications have routinely made you aware of these shortcomings and asked for you to address them.”

Is it fair to blame tech companies for not including truck-specific information in navigation apps, especially when they make it clear they are for passenger vehicles only? How did truckers survive before phone apps were available?

To start, this highlights the overreliance on technology. Before navigation apps were a thing, truckers literally mapped out their routes before getting into the cockpit, including knowing where they can and cannot go. Sure, it was burdensome but absolutely necessary. With the internet and other digital resources, manually mapping out one’s route is significantly easier. There is no excuse for truckers to find themselves where they should not be.

Second, Blumenthal’s concerns about navigation apps point to even more reasons to have more stringent driver training rules. CDL mills are churning out new drivers like some factory assembly line. A lot of new truckers go to work driving solo without the tools necessary to drive safely.

Requiring a certain amount of hours behind the wheel on the road with a trainer will make drivers more equipped to navigate the complicated road system.

Lastly, not following or knowing trucking restrictions on certain roadways is a problem that is partially the result of high turnover rates at large carriers. Drivers for large carriers are constantly leaving those companies looking for greener pastures. As a result, whatever routes they leave behind will be picked up by a new driver who has no idea what to expect on that route. The driver leaving also will find him- or herself with a new route location with “unknown” restrictions. Rinse and repeat hundreds or thousands of times and you consistently have hundreds or thousands of drivers on a relatively new route they know very little about.

It’s easy to blame Big Tech for pretty much anything and everything nowadays, like Blumenthal is doing with Google and Apple. However, at a certain point, we have to take responsibility for ourselves. In this case, it is up to drivers to find out where the restrictions are, not Google, Apple or anyone else. Truckers did it for decades before navigation apps. With that said, we can help drivers by educating them, proving more efficient training, and solving the retention problem with better pay. LL

Another navigation app-related story:

 

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Tyson Fisher

Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.