15 May 2008
Attempts to solve the problems caused by lorries being directed onto inappropriate roads by satellite navigation equipment could fall down if industry tries to over-complicate the solution. Responding to the Department for Transport's report on a consultation regarding in-vehicle information systems, the Freight Transport Association has said that huge gains could be made simply by having a commercial vehicle option on standard units which has a greater bias towards motorways and major roads, and a negative bias towards minor roads.
FTA's Roads Policy Manager, James Firth said, 'While the ultimate goal might be a complete directory of all height, weight and width restrictions, the time it will take to develop a system which can be quickly, accurately and – most importantly – reliably updated means that such a solution is a long way off yet. The technology to alter a route's bias in favour of major roads and against minor roads already exists in some computer-based route planning software, and solves some of the high profile routeing problems such as Barrow Gurney in Somerset and Miller's Dale in Derbyshire, which was the subject of a debate in the House of Commons. But sat-nav manufacturers seem slow to pick this up in in-vehicle units.'
FTA members operate around half of the commercial vehicles registered in Britain and have expressed concern that a system which warns of height, weight and width restrictions could create what has been termed an 'invincibility mindset'. Firth said, 'We would not want to see any system developed which had the effect of reducing drivers' direct interaction with roadside information, and that goes for the private motorist as well as professional drivers. As soon as drivers start to think 'if there are any problems the nice lady in the sat-nav will warn me about them,' then that is when the odd bridge height or road classification which for whatever reason did not get picked up in an update will lead to these problems continuing.'
Despite the high profile coverage of events when things go wrong, sat-nav is bringing significant benefits to the freight industry every day. Sat-navs reduce the time a driver spends lost or pulling over to read a map, and also reduces the dangerous and illegal practice of attempting to read a map while driving. Firth said, 'An FTA member operating a nationwide home delivery service reported a return on investment from installing sat-navs across the fleet after just three months. This return was due to more efficient use of the fleet and reduced fuel costs, producing cost savings to customers and more reliable delivery windows. It also means fewer vehicles on the roads and a reduction in carbon and other emissions.'