Report on I-5 bridge collapse says trucker ‘felt crowded’

| June 12, 2013

i 5 bridge washington

A report released by the National Transportation Safety Board written from preliminary accounts of the collision that caused the bridge collapse on Interstate 5 near Mount Vernon, Wash., over the Skagit River says that the top of an oversize load collided with an overhead portal and some sway braces on the far right side of the bridge’s truss structure.

“The impacts caused significant damage to load-bearing members of the bridge’s superstructure,” according to the report, “resulting in the failure and subsequent collapse of the northernmost bridge span.”

The driver said he felt “crowded,” the report says, by a tractor-trailer passing on his left, so he moved to the right.

The report says, according to post-collision accounts, the driver reported that he thought the height of his load was 15 feet, 9 inches. The operator of the truck’s pilot vehicle said his clearance pole was set at 16 feet, 2 inches, and it reportedly cleared the bridge.

However, the lowest portion of the bridge was reported to be just 14 feet, 8 inches, NTSB’s report says.

The bridge was built in 1955 and some of its over-water trusses were “considered to be fracture critical,” says the report.

The truck that hit the bridge was a 2010 Kenworth towing a 1997 Aspen flatbed witha  casing shed. It was following a pilot vehicle heading southbound on I-5.

Click here to see the report.

  • pushrod

    If he was oversize the state routed him that way the state should know

  • Michael Jones

    Blame the state, they routed him that direction. Evidently, someone wasn’t doing their job very well.

  • Mark Hayward

    This Country can’t afford new Bridges, they are sending all of our Money to Middle East Countries like sending new F-16 Fighter Jets to Egypt. Also giving Millions to Pakistan Government ect.

  • gary d

    i don’t see any height signs on the bridge, this pic was taken pre collapse..

  • gary d
  • USMC 69-75

    That would include the pilot car. It’s their job along with the driver to make sure all the ducks are in a row! But if he met another truck on the bridge……somebody should have had the “COMMON” sense to give right away, not both try to cross at once?????

  • Eric Evans

    if hy did the bridge have a lower side than the middle
    there are two lanes the w

  • Ken Nilsen

    The driver is at fault, the “lowest portion” was 14 feet. Having crossed this bridge multiple times had he stayed in the left lane or centered the lanes, with assistance from the pilot car, he would have cleared it just fine. Saying you were crowded is not an excuse. When I have to have a height car, I have the option of sitting on the shoulder, allow them to clear the obstacle, and if I need to center the bridge, they are allowed to go to the next exit, come back, and follow across to block both travel lanes. This bridge is like almost every crossing in the USA. The shoulders ALWAYS have lower clearances.

  • Truckman

    I would have to think part of a pilot car’s job is to stop oncoming traffic during bridge or tunnel passage,to prevent things like this from happening.

  • Robert F

    No Mr. Pushrod, it was “driver error”. The error has to be shared with the seeing eye dog in the pilot vehicle. And this is the cleanest remarks I can think of at this moment!!!

  • 4thusafad

    The trucking company was issued a permit by the state. However it is the trucking company’s responsibilty to verify routes. It states it on the permits.
    I have been organizing the movements of oversize loads for 9 years and never has the state issued me a permit for higher than what the min. height of a bridge. If the lowest part of the bridge was 14′-8″ the trucking company would never of gotten a permit for 15′-9″. I don’t think we have the whole story.

  • 4thusafad

    I disagree. The company I work for builds bridges. We are working on bridges in CT, MA, WI, OH, LA & FL.

  • Mark Hayward

    Here in Michigan near me several Bridges are closes and 100’s have reduced weight capacities so that trucks and farm equipment can only go over them while empty not loaded.

  • Kate

    What’s done is done.
    What I wonder about is how unstable that bridge was in the first place! Being run into by the load causing it to collapse like it did. The whole piece fell down, not just the top being smashed!

  • matt

    There are several bridges in Washington with the same design. On the edge of the inside of the bridge there is a brace extending at a 45 deg angle upwards to the overhead trusses. they meet the trusses at the edge of the lane of travel. being that this is a 2 lane, the tallest clearance is in the lane of travel, and not the shoulder to the edge of the bridge. If you have to you have to center both lanes to clear the shoulders. as a oversize driver and licensed pilot operator, thats what i would of done. however washington state will give you a clearance even though the route may not support the load. you have to pay a pilot car company for a route clearance on loads above a certain height. I had a company fake a clearance, and i ended up with a stuck truck on a route with the permit signed off by the state DOT

  • martymarsh

    He never denied hitting the bridge, but if you don’t think the bridge was ready to come down anyway then we should be paying for police escorts. He was just the straw that broke the camels back.

  • Clarice

    I have one thing to say. Where was his high pole escort at. Before you leave you starting point you are supposed to know how tall you are regardless.Its part of doing your pre-trip.

  • Passingtrucker

    I’ve hauled oversize loads before, and I ALWAYS straddle two lanes when I approach a bridge or tunnel that won’t clear my load. This Canadian trucker FAILED to anticipate the sides of the bridge structures were lower. The Canadian trucking company should have dropped the load at the border and let an American trucker take it from there.

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