While the federal government does not have accurate statistics on how many trucks (or their cargo) hit bridges in any given year, many states do keep a record, and the numbers indicate a growing problem across the United States.
Bridge strikes occur when a truck, that is often too tall, hits a bridge or overpass thus causing damage to the truck, the infrastructure, and possibly serious injury to the driver and nearby vehicles.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) believes that these “strikes” are extremely avoidable. The damage from bridge strikes can total into the millions depending upon the type of damage done to the infrastructure, the truck, loss of life, disruption in commerce, and delays in delivery/travel times.
For instance, in a recent strike in Nashville, Tennessee, where a caterpillar tanker truck (weighing in at 70,000 pounds) hit an overpass, traffic was held up for over 16 hours and twisted the steel of the bridge like a pretzel. Here, the true consequences of these types of crashes can be seen.
Thankfully no one was injured in that particular wreck. Sadly, the price tag was a staggering $1 million to repair the snarled bridge overpass and make it secure for traffic to pass through the region again.
In this technologically savvy world we live in, most of us have gotten fairly used to accessing global positioning to get us from point A to point B. It seems pretty reasonable that truck drivers that need to get from one place to another relatively quickly would use such technology to help them navigate their routes.
Unfortunately, investigations into bridge strikes by the FMCSA show that many commercial vehicles and bus drivers may be using technology that is meant for passenger car drivers rather than those intended for commercial vehicles. This GPS technology may lead commercial drivers into an area where the height clearance may not be appropriate for their high profile vehicle or cargo.
In order to reduce the number of bridge strikes, the FMCSA plans to institute an awareness campaign including clear signage before bridges and overpasses, education on GPS Guidance for CMVs, and consider training on new guidance systems created with high profile vehicles in mind.
Additionally, there are penalties for trucks traveling outside the restricted areas and attempting passes that are not height appropriate. The maximum penalty is $11,000 for a company, $2,750 for a driver. Source: Appendix B to 49 CFR part 386, paragraphs (a)(3) and (a)(4).
The FMCSA suggests using a guidance system meant for CMVs. It also suggests following navigation set forth by the technology and following the signage near overpasses, not just trusting the digital system.