"Can opener" bridge claims 10 victims in 2014




Is it me, or does that headline evoke horribly gruesome mental images?

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A number of these trucks get away with just a scraped roof, despite being a similar or the same model as the more spectacular crashes - I guess the few inches you lose if the truck is fully loaded make all the difference.


I understand some common box trucks are 12 feet tall. The clearance under the bridge is an inch-and-a-bit less than that. I guess even a moderate load makes the difference between safely (albeit barely) getting under and getting the top sheared off the vehicle. Which I suppose makes this whole problem even worse - there must be drivers who manage to get under it once, think “Oh, that’s ok, then,” but go on to empty their trucks and hit the bridge on the return trip.

It really does show how dangerously little attention drivers pay to what’s going on, though.


Good place for an improvised explosive device.


There was a bridge like this close to my work and I once saw a truck do exactly this, when I was returning from lunch. Its one of those situations where the driver had exactly one job to do properly (trucks are tall and tend to hit low things) and didn’t do it. Linfox proved that there is money to be made from professionalism in commercial transport. The fact that stupid things like this happen all the time is frankly a failure of regulation.


But we can’t de-regulate the interstate trucking industry! Why, that might protect people from fraudulent moving companies, and we can’t have government over-reach getting in the way of capitalists making a buck!


Well anyway, the bridge here in Durham is typically hit by people in box trucks. Those are usually people whose primary job is something other than driving a truck (like lawncare or delivering and installing appliances). And there are very, very few places in the world where inadequate clearance is a problem. It’s no surprise that they don’t have their guard up about this particular bridge.


I used to work in customer service serving several different trucking companies. At different times I talked to two drivers who were both former professors of anthropology.

I wonder if they were ever tempted to go back into academia with a study of phenomena such as this.


Hard to tell, but it looks like he might have made it, if it weren’t for the sign.


I’ve seen chains hanging down from a sign set 50 to 100 metres in front of low underpasses like this. The chains will smack your vehicle without the whole can-opener issue.

I don’t understand why there isn’t such a device set up in front of this particularly infamous bridge? Do the locals get money from fines/towing/repairs? o_O


Even if they did, the inconvenience of shutting down the road for hours while they do clean-up would cause more monetary damage to the city than they could possibly make back.


According to the FAQ, the road that turns JUST BEFORE the bridge and runs parallel to the tracks services many businesses and restaurants that get deliveries from trucks. Chains like that would give a false warning to trucks that have legitimate business going there.


I notice that many of them are from rental companies. Some of those people likely drive trucks only rarely.


There was a great story that Richard Harris used to tell about when he was young and delivering furniture… (part of what got him banned from ever driving in Britain)
Drunk, of course, he found himself approaching a bridge that appeared too low for the truck he was driving… He got out, looked at the bridge, looked at the truck, looked at the bridge… eventually, in a wonderful drunken insight he decided that if he drove fast enough perhaps he would make it… Wedged fast and tight he just resigned himself to fate and settled down for a nap. Awoken by a rap on the window, he found a bicycle-bound constable asking if he needed assistance - not missing a beat, Richard responded “I’m delivering this bridge and found myself a wee bit lost”.
*story from memory when I was ~12 (LONG time ago, so details are suspect)


If I wanted to build one of these, are there any makers out there who could help?


How are regulations going to save us from idiots? The height is posted, there are warnings, flashing lights, a big yellow stripe… Is one more law really going to make them stop?


The unpopular moral is that bad, dangerous design continues to be bad, dangerous design even if you festoon it with “DANGER: BAD DESIGN” warnings.

I realize that this particular bridge trestle predates standardized truck sizes, so the original builders are not to blame, and that raising the trestle or lowering the roadway would be quite expensive. This thing is clearly a major, ongoing problem that the current measures have not fixed; pointing blame around is fun and satisfying but does not make the problem go away. Unfortunately, none of the people who could fix the problem feel responsible for it, and none of the people who are affected by it are in a position to fix it.


If a reflective yellow I-beam doesn’t give them pause, a law written in a book in another city sure won’t.


The sign looks to me like an easily replaceable device that absorbs the hit in a defined way instead of having the bridge’s bottom take the damage.

That said, if the height is only a bit lower than how high trucks commonly are, why not digging up a few inches of the road and sink the road down? Assuming it is easier than lifting the bridge, even including the inlet for removal of rainwater from the lowered part of the road?