by Al Sacco

GPS to Help Keep Tanker Trucks from Going Head Over Wheels

Opinion
Dec 17, 20073 mins
Data Center

A new use for global positioning system (GPS) technology could halve the number of tanker truck rollovers that occur each year in the United States, leading to fewer hazardous chemical spills and gasoline explosions.

N.H.-based Cadec Global will release its PowerVue computer for tankers and tractor trailers early next year, according to Boston.com, and it will use data from GPS satellites to calculate trucks’ exact positioning, what directions they’re moving and how fast, as well as side-to-side sway.

Some 1,200 tanker rollovers occur each year in the United States, Boston.com reports, and approximately half of those accidents are a result of speeding drivers. In early December, a tanker carrying 9,000 gallons of gasoline turned over in Everett, Mass., due to a driver who was speeding. The gasoline ignited and sent waves of flame through area streets, burning down residences and incinerating vehicles. That truck was not equipped with any sort of rollover prevention technology.

image of a tanker truck
 

Antirollover technologies have been in existence for some time, but most use a collection of sensors attached to trucks’ brakes and steering systems, among other vehicle parts, in place of GPS, to detect acceleration and side-to-side movement. However, such systems often only work with newer vehicles, whereas the PowerVue computer can be used within any truck, Boston.com says.

Heimer Sverrisson, Cadec chief architect, told Boston.com that upon first use he was “amazed” at how accurate the PowerVue system was.

PowerVue will sell for $2,450 per unit when it becomes available in the first quarter of 2008.

One advantage some of the older systems have, like those from Ohio’s Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems, is that they can automatically moderate trucks’ speeds. PowerVue merely sends an alert to drivers and a warning to companies’ headquarters via a cellular network.

Currently the U.S. government does not require such systems to be used by truckers, but Congress is mulling a plan that would grant tax credits to companies that choose to purchase and use vehicles with antirollover systems. Vehicles from popular tanker manufactures like Mac Trucks and Paccar, which makes Peterbilt trucks, are available with preinstalled rollover prevention systems, according to the article.

I recently reviewed a smartphone-based GPS tracking system called TeleNav Track that helps companies keep tabs on their mobile workers, and that product provided much of the same functionality available within the PowerVue computer. Users’ speeds could be calculated at any given moment so that administrators could see how often they were speeding and at risk of getting tickets. The PowerVue system can also be used this way.

It seems to me like the ideal antirollover system for tankers would include a combination of the functionality of both the Bendix and Cadec system, so that the accuracy of GPS could be utilized along with the ability to remotely modify vehicles’ speeds in case drivers don’t receive or see alerts.

But I’d bet that many truck drivers would prefer the rollover prevention systems sans GPS, as their every move could potentially be tracked with a system like PowerVue—a concern that New York City taxi drivers recently expressed when the city said it would soon require GPS systems to be installed in the city’s cabs.

AS