Truck carrying oversize load destroys heavily traveled bridge

Memorial Day weekend is always a popular time for road travel for those living in the Chicago area and around the country. This year, Americans held to that tradition with a major exception in one part of the country. Travel was severely disrupted between Canada and Washington State due to a truck accident that caused sections of a heavily traveled bridge to collapse into the river below.

According to news sources, the collapse was caused by a truckload of drilling equipment that was too tall for the steel framework above the bridge. The force of the load striking the bridge’s trusses was enough to send a span of the four-lane bridge falling 25 feet into the water. Three people in vehicles were sent plunging into the water after it.

Amazingly, there were no fatalities and the three victims did not suffer serious injuries. However, the bridge will cost an estimated $15 million to fix and will be out of service for perhaps months. Explaining the impact the loss of this bridge will have, the governor noted that “You cannot overstate the importance of this corridor to Washington state.”

Reports indicate that the 41-year-old truck driver has a good safety record and a lot of experience hauling specialized loads, and the company he was hauling for had a permit to carry a load as tall as 15 feet, 9 inches. This is in spite of the fact that the bridge offers clearance as low as 14 feet, 9 inches in some places.

So whose mistake was this? Initial reports indicate that the trucking company was to blame. A spokesman for the Department of Transportation said: “It’s ultimately up to the trucking company to figure out whether it can get through.” In other words, trucking companies must either stay within the confines of a bridge’s lowest clearance or figure out a way to safely navigate a taller load.

All things considered, this accident could have been much worse. But like many truck accidents, it didn’t have to happen at all, and likely resulted from a trucking company’s negligence and poor planning.

Source: Washington Post, “Horror in the rearview mirror: Trucker amazed by tragedy behind him after load hits I-5 bridge,” May 23, 2013