Recommendations on how to help prevent vertical-clearance “bridge hits,” like the one that caused the Skagit River Bridge collapse in Washington State back in 2013, have been issued by a working group of safety and highway stakeholder groups.
The working group, which began studying the issue in May, was comprised of 20 representatives from the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the National Pilot Car Association, the North American Pilot Vehicle Safety Alliance, and the Specialized Carriers and Riggers Association, per an Oct. 2 news release from SCRA.
The group was charged to develop recommendations in light of the national Transportation Safety Board’s investigation after the Skagit River Bridge collapse and other advocacy issues related to industry operations, according to SCRA.
Studied by the group were bridge hits by vehicles; oversize/overweight (OS/OW) load transportation and pilot escort vehicle operations, and inspection of OS/OW loads.
Among the many recommendations presented in the working group’s summary are these four key ones:
- Support for Pilot Escort Vehicle Operator certification. States which do not currently require PEVO certification should take the requirement under consideration
- Establish a national centralized database to record bridge hit incidents related to vertical clearance
- Given the increasing volume and size of current OS/OW loads, it is recommended that standards established in the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices be expanded to include the marking of vertical clearance on all bridges that have less than 20’ of clearance
- Establish a national centralized database of certified pilot escort drivers accessible by law enforcement
In the summary, the members state that they have closed the group and “lend the result of their work to the various organizations with the audience and scope of duty to act upon these recommendations.
"Failing to act and simply turn a blind eye and allow the devoted work of these professionals to collect ‘dust on a shelf’ would be a travesty,” they continue. “We all have a responsibility to end the status quo related to the safe movement of OSOW loads. Bridge strikes due to vertical clearance issues continue to rise. The damage caused has resulted in serious injury and fatalities and billions of dollars of repair costs which far too often are left to an ever-decreasing transportation budget.”
On May 23, 2013, a large tractor-trailer combination with an over-height load struck multiple overhead braces on the Skagit River bridge, which carriers Interstate 5 over the river to link the cities of Mount Vernon and Burlington, Washington.
The impact severely damaged the structure, causing one span of the nearly 60-year-old bridge to collapse into the river. Two cars on the span fell into the water. While there were no fatalities, three persons had to be pulled from the water and they suffered minor injuries. The bridge was later repaired at a cost of $19.8 million.