Overheight Truck Sheers Through Truss Bridge in Texas

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Photo taken by Brent Tindall, Public Domain

Historic Highway Bridge Closed Indefinitely after Truck Rams into Bridge with the Trailer Set on High.

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DALLAS-FT. WORTH/ GLEN ROSE- Less than one week after a historic bridge in Iowa was lost to an overweight truck, another historic bridge may be destined for scrap heap because of another accident. Yet this time, it involved a truck, whose trailer was far too high for the bridge’s overhead clearance.

The Glen Rose Bridge, located over the Brazos River on US Highway 67 between Glen Rose and Ft. Worth, is currently closed to traffic after a trucker travelled through the cantilever through truss structure with a raised loader, tearing through the portal and sway bracings of the bridge before stopping a third of the way through. The vertical clearance for the 1300-foot cantilever Warren structure is 15 feet! The 1947 structure had been renovated in 2009 to accomodate westbound traffic with the east bound traffic serving the newer structure. It is unknown if the loader, which was in a diagonal position at the time of entering the bridge, was raised intentionally, or if there was either technical or driver error. The driver, who was unhurt in the accident, has been cited for driving with an overheight truck across the bridge, yet more dire consequences may be coming for him and the trucking firm as costs for repairs will need to be calculated.

The 70-year old bridge is currently closed to traffic with all westbound traffic being shifted to the newer, eastbound bridge. It is unknown how much work will be needed on the bridge, but officials at Texas Department of Transportation estimate the westbound bridge being closed for up to a year, be it extensive repairs or a full-blown replacement.

This is the second such accident in less than four years. The Skagit River Interstate 5 Bridge collapsed on 23 May, 2013 after a truck struck its portal bracings, causing one span to collapse. It took less than five months to construct a replacement before reopening the bridge, which still serves I-5 in Mt. Vernon, Washington.

While the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on latest on the Glen Rose Bridge, have a look at the extent of the damage by clicking here. Be careful, the damage may be graphic to some viewers.

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The portal bracings are like the red door of the house of the Burnham family in the film American Beauty. Consisting of lattice or letter-style patterns, they are used to support the end posts of the through truss bridge. They once featured interwoven Town lattice bracings with ornamental features with swirls, iron urns and fancy builder’s plaques. Since 1900, they feature letter-shapes, like the A, M, X, and WV. This one has the WA style, the letters representing the state of Washington.

The sway bracings are horizontal overhead bracings that support the truss frames, keeping it intact. Pending on the through truss bridge’s height and simplistic design, they can be single or multi-layered. The Glen Rose has Lattice-style sways, which increases in layers as the driver approaches one of its two towers.

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Trucker Gets Jail Time for Destroying Historic Bridge

Gospel Street Bridge in Paoli, Indiana. Photo taken by James Baughn

Trucker to serve six months for driving overweight truck across the Gospel Street Bridge. Bridge being rebuilt.

INDIANAPOLIS-  Sometimes the price to pay for ignorance can be the most painful.  When a person misses a turn-off and tries a short cut, it turns out to be the longest odessy of her life. For Mary Lambright, the trucker who drove across the historic Gospel Street Bridge in a semi-truck laden with bottled water on Christmas Day 2015, dropping the structure built by the Cleveland Bridge and Iron Company in 1880 into Lick Creek, that short cut she took will cost her time and then some.

According to multiple resources, Indiana District Judge R. Michael Cloud sentenced Ms. Lambright to six months in prison. In addition, she is to pay $2000 in damages to the structure, to be paid once the bridge is rebuilt. Ms. Lambright, 24, and a 17-year old passenger missed a turn-off enroute to Wal-mart and took a short-cut that led to the bridge on Christmas Day. Not knowing what six tons meant on the sign, she continued to cross the bridge at 30 mph, resulting in the top trailer being sheered off by the bridge’s overhead bracings and the bridge collapsing into the creek. Neither of the two were injured. The trucking company, based in Louisville, later went out of business because of liability claims involving the bridge but not before having fired Lambright right after the incident. Ms. Lambright apoligized to the court at the time of the sentencing, stating: I’m really, really sorry about what happened and, if I could go back and do it over again, I wouldn’t be so stupid.

The Gospel Street Bridge is currently being rebuilt, piece-by-piece, to its original form, using the money provided by the insurance company that had once protected the trucking company she used to work for. The bridge is expected to be completely rebuilt and open to traffic by the beginning of July. With the sentencing handed down and the eventual return of the historic bridge to a small Indiana community, it will provide a closure to an incident that has been a focus of discussion about how to better train semi-truck drivers (how to avoid restricted areas and drive safely and responsibly), especially as the Gospel Street Bridge had served as the key artery into the business district. For those who have close ties to the bridge, they will be the lucky ones as they will win their historic bridge back- something that seldom happens to historic bridges in the US in this use-damage-throw away age of travel and consumption.

Author’s Note: What do you know about the Cleveland Bridge and Iron Company in terms of its years in business, its founder and examples of other bridges built? The Chronicles is putting together a bridge builders directory that will contain a summary of the history of the companies and engineers who contributed to almost 200 years of bridge building in the US, Canada, Europe and elsewhere. If you have any information about this company, please contact Jason Smith at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. A link will also suffice. You can find this directory on its wordpress page by clicking here.

 

 

Experience and Common Sense Are Key

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bhc interview new The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles interviews an experienced truck driver and talks about bridges, GPS, and self-responsibility on the highway. 

This article starts off with a quote by former Temple men’s basketball coach John Chaney, who lectured a rowdy crowd during a basketball game in 2005, in response to someone throwing an object onto the court, by saying these words: “Stupid is forever. You can’t change stupidity.”  Yet stupidity can be changed; it depends on whether the person does it himself or if it is done for him- in almost every case, with consequences.

Truck drivers ignoring weight limits and height restrictions on bridges and underpasses have been a major problem in the past 10+ years, as incidents like the one in the video below have been in the news once every two days…..

And since the incident that involved the Gospel Street Bridge in Paoli, Indiana in December 2015, discussions as to how competent the truck driver was, let alone what the bridge’s future holds have flared up among networks of pontists, engineers, historians and even truckers alike.

But how would a driver react to the situation where, regardless of the dependency on the GPS, he/she ends up in the situation as Mary Lambright was in, when she disregarded the signs as seen by a pic below and made that fateful crossing?

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Photo taken by James Baughn

In response to a question posed to one trucker, his response was simple: “If you ever get in a situation where you need to turn around and can’t, you stop, call the local police and put your emergency blinkers on, and wait for assistance to come and help you out of the situation.” In reaction to the incident, Jeremy Johnson’s diagnosis of Ms. Lambright’s will to cross the bridge was simple, “This is a classic example of lack of common sense. First her truck was way too tall to go on this bridge and second, it was far too heavy.” The bridge had a weight limit of six tons and a vertical clearance of 10 feet and six inches at the time of the incident, the former Ms. Lambright later claimed that she didn’t know what six tons meant in pounds. The latter should have served as an alarm signal when approaching the bridge, according to Johnson. “Most trucks have a height of 13’6″. It’s pretty self explanatory that when you see a sign that says 11’6 bridge ahead, you’re not going to make it.”

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Jeremy Johnson’s semi-truck, idle in the parking lot while its owner is having lunch.

Jeremy Johnson has been in the trucking business for many years, having first driven for a local brewery after obtaining his CDL trucking license in 1998. After a short hiatus, he went into the trucking business full time in 2003, having worked for the farm industry, hauling livestock for 10 years, before starting his own business in his hometown of Marshall, Minnesota, three years ago. Today, he hauls dried and refrigerated goods all over the country, having seen some of the most unusual places along the way, like the largest stockyard in the country located in Oklahoma, or an underground warehouse in Missouri.

He has also seen some of the incidents on the road which makes him and other truckers both cringe and shake their heads, whether it is a trucker trying to turn around while being stuck in the mud or one cutting off a car driver on an Interstate highway.  “I have seen many things in my 10 years on the road that I guess you could say I’ve been desensitized to a point,” Johnson commented in an interview with the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles.  “I’ve seen a lot of accidents and a lot more near misses.” In terms of a good road relationship between the trucker and the car driver, Johnson adds,  “People in cars do not respect the power of a semi. They will cut you off just to save a split second and risk everyone’s lives in doing so.”

The statistics involving truckers and accidents are alarming and sober. According to a 2014 report released by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 52,360 of the accidents on the road in the US involve trucks of all kinds; of which, 48.2% involve a truck with a semi-trailer, the kind Johnson uses for transporting goods. 3,744 of the accidents resulted in a fatality, 62.5% of which come from the rig.  The causes of these accidents have been narrowed down to the top five factors, identified by another report: driver fatigue, improper maintenance of the vehicles involved, improper loading of goods, distracted driving and lastly, inexperience. While the US government is working on a plan of regulating the amount of hours of driving on the road and governing the speed limit of semi-trucks on the highway, following examples set in Europe, much of the accidents can be avoided by experience and common sense, something Johnson says is the bread and butter of truck driving:  “There is no such thing as a great truck driver, but there is experience. Experience prepares you for the unexpected situations.”  But experience requires a driver to be fully equipped with knowledge of your truck and having the basic necessities needed to ensure that accidents like what happened at the Paoli Bridge can be avoided.

Most semi-trucks have trailers with a height of 13.5 feet, according to Johnson.  Therefore it is important to know the truck’s height and weight before departing to deliver the next goods somewhere. Even more important is to have a proper GPS device, suitable for trucks,  to ensure that the truck stays on the highway. “The GPS will sometimes route you on a non-truck route if you don’t have a truck-routed GPS system,” says Johnson. And what would be the best GPS system to use while trucking on the highway?

“I personally have a Rand-McNally truck GPS which gives me truck route only maps.” But that’s not all that he uses: “I also use my i-pad with Google Maps to have a general idea where I’m going,” Johnson adds.  It is unknown whether Lambright had a functioning GPS device in her possession at the time of the accident, but reports indicated that she had missed her turnoff as she was entering Paoli and continued travelling on the least travelled Gospel Street with her cousin, driving past the warning signs of the bridge and crossing the structure before it gave way.

The Gospel Bridge was located one block west of another crossing that was suitable for truck traffic, thus leading to the question of why the bridge was even open to traffic, in addition to the issues of fatigue and lack of essential equipment that Lambright might have had while travelling. Many engineers and transportation officials have tried to accomodate truckers by eliminating crossings like this, as well as  the Niland Corner junction at Colo, Iowa. Yet despite the attempt to give truckers the most efficient route, such projects come at a price where places not meant for truck crossings are converted into unnecessary freeway interchanges, losing not just a piece of history but also a piece of life, if a fatal accident occurs.

Speaking from a trucker’s point of view, Johnson believes that the most travelled highways suitable for trucks should be made trucker friendly whereas less-travelled highways and bridges should be left as is. “There are bridges that were built that just weren’t made for trucks, but there are truck routes in every single city and originally they were built for trucks.” He adds, “In my opinion, if a new bridge is going up then you need to make it suitable for present and future traffic and try to think ahead, but for existing bridges not made for trucks, I think they should just leave them alone.” Looking at the Niland Corner Bridge, opposition to the proposal has gone up sporatically but for a good reason: The Jefferson Highway (US Hwy. 65) runs parallel to Interstate 35, which is 10 miles to the west!

Inspite of all the accomodation attempts, the bottom line when trucking on the highway and crossing bridges are two things: common sense and experience. The more experience on the highway, the more the person will learn. Sometimes it takes some shadow training to see if the job fits like a glove, as Johnson pointed out. “In my opinion if you want to become a truck driver, then ride along with one for a month. The only way you get better is through experience.”  And in the end, if one is dedicated, experience will reap rewards as a trucker. “I learn something new out here every week. When you think you know it all its time to retire,” Johnson adds.

While Lambright lost her job, and the trucking company she worked for, based in Louisville, Kentucky, closed its doors right after the collapse of the bridge in Paoli, she still intends on returning to her career as a trucker as soon as she climbs out of her legal holes she is facing at present, which includes fines, suspension of her trucking license and possible jail time. Still, at the age of 23 years, she will need more lessons for the road, on top of what she learned from her experience at the bridge. One of the things that is important, as Johnson mentioned in the interview, is that “….people have very short memories, they forget that trucks bring them everything and I mean everything that a person uses and makes people’s lives more convenient on an everyday basis.” In other words, a trucker’s job is a privilege to be handled by those who are well-equipped with experience and common sense to deliver from point A to point B without the cost of life and property!

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Author’s Note:

  1. Thanks to Jeremy Johnson for his help in answering my questions for the article. He and I knew each other from our days at Marshall High School, playing football and basketball together before I moved to another town to finish high school. He graduated in 1996, the same year I did. 
  2. There is still no word on whether and how the Gospel Street Bridge will be rebuilt. Orange County estimates that the cost for the project will be over $1 million. The community is still set on seeing the bridge rebuilt to its original form because of its popularity in the community. More on the bridge’s future will follow.
  3. The photos of the collapsed Gospel Street Bridge are all courtesy of Greg McDuffee, who visited the bridge recently. A big thanks to him for allowing use for this article.

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