Contact: Beth Weaver
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Released Report – AN OVERSIZED TRUCK STRIKE IS THE PROBABLE CAUSE FOR THE WASHINGTON STATE I-5 BRIDGE COLLAPSE
Truck Safety Advocates Respond to Report – Existing Truck Safety Issues Would Be Exacerbated by Bigger and Heavier Trucks
WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 16, 2014)—On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that an oversized truck striking the I-5 bridge in Washington state was the probable cause of its collapse on May 23, 2013, in which three were injured, and fortunately none killed. The bridge collapse and the NTSB’s findings illustrate the dangers that arise when there is a lack of oversight on the permitting process of oversized trucks.
Jennifer Tierney, Board Member for Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH), Truck Safety Coalition North Carolina Volunteer Coordinator, and Member of FMCSA, Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC) after losing her father, James Mooney, in a truck crash said, “This highlights something the safety community has already known for years, the gaps and lack of oversight in our current system along with the vulnerability of our infrastructure creates a dangerous combination. We need to improve truck safety, not make it more dangerous. Now is not the time to be increasing truck size or weight.”
As a result of the damage to its truss structure, the bridge, constructed in 1955, buckled and subsequently collapsed into the Skagit River. In its findings, the NTSB cited the insufficient route planning by the trucking company and truck driver and inadequate evaluation of oversized permit requests as two of the reasons the collapse occurred. The NTSB recommended that the Washington State Department of Transportation revise its permit process for oversized trucks to include an evaluation of the route’s overhead clearances and lane widths with respect to the oversized truck’s load dimensions.
Tierney concluded, “Transportation budget shortfalls have resulted in a dire state of infrastructure disrepair, nearly 70,000 of our bridges are rated structurally deficient. We don’t have the money to repair our infrastructure damage at the current rate of wear let alone consider the increased wear produced by bigger and heavier trucks. In fact, increasing the weight of a heavy truck by only 20 percent will increase bridge damage by 33 percent.”
In 2010, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) estimated that in order to address all cost-beneficial bridge needs, the investment backlog for bridges is $121 billion, which is 60 percent over the current spending levels for bridges. Moreover, the Highway Trust Fund is projected to go broke after this summer. As Congress attempts to find ways to keep highway repair funded, any increases in truck size and weight will increase the wear and tear on bridges and increase the cost of bridge maintenance.