OOIDA says Virginia GPS mandate misses the mark

January 3, 2020

Keith Goble

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A Virginia bill seeking to require trucks to have GPS tech is drawing concern from the trucking industry.

Delegate Terry Austin, R-Roanoke, filed for consideration during the upcoming regular session a bill to mandate large vehicles be outfitted with a truck-specific GPS system. Specifically, HB170 would require any commercial vehicle in excess of 26,000 pounds to be equipped with the technology.

Austin wrote the GPS is necessary to help truck drivers avoid low overpasses, avoid prohibited roads, and to identify highways “suitable” for truck travel.

A GPS system would be required for occasions a truck is operating on a roadway other than an interstate.

OOIDA voices concerns

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has communicated to Delegate Austin concerns about the bill that relies on GPS to guide professional drivers. The Association touts more than 3,000 Virginia members and thousands more who regularly operate on Virginia highways.

OOIDA President and CEO Todd Spencer says that an “overwhelming majority of CMVs currently have some sort of GPS device.”

Although GPS devices are helpful for truck drivers traveling between points on the map, Spencer notes “as with virtually any technology, they are not perfect.”

“GPS devices are only as good as the information uploaded to them.”

Spencer adds that some GPS devices actually lead to bridge strikes and other truck-related misdirection.

A better option

The Association says truck driver training is the most effective way to guard against situations that Austin’s bill attempts to address.

“Ultimately, truck drivers must be qualified to operate a heavy truck,” Spencer wrote to Austin. “They should be properly trained to know the height of their equipment and whether or not their load exceeds the height limit of a bridge.”

“We also can’t stress enough how important it is for low overpasses and truck-restricted routes to be clearly marked on the roadside well in advance of the potential hazard.”

Spencer added that mandating GPS technology ignores the problem of untrained drivers.

“Unfortunately, until the state gets serious about entry level driver training for truck drivers, the best technology in the world won’t have a meaningful impact on the issues HB170 is intended to address.”

HB170 can be considered during the session that begins Jan. 8. Any action on the issue must happen quickly. The session is scheduled to wrap up on March 7.

More Land Line coverage of news from Virginia is available.

Keith Goble

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.