NTSB advising states to review oversized permits after bridge collapse

A 2013 bridge collapse in Washington State has prompted the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to urge state transportation agencies to review their permitting processes for oversized truck shipments, the Seattle Times reported last week.

The National Transportation Safety Board in part blamed the collapse of an Interstate 5 span over the Skagit River in Washington state on slack state oversight of oversized trucks. Federal investigators also faulted Mullen Trucking, the Canadian company hauling the oversized load, and the driver of the pilot vehicle escorting the heavy truck through the state.

As a result of the investigation, the NTSB issued 18 safety recommendations to parties including the Federal Highway Administration and state transportation departments nationwide. The FHWA should develop guidelines to help states prevent “bridge strikes” by over height vehicles, the NTSB said. State transportation departments should better share information on bridge heights and restrictions internally and coordinate their permitting processes. The agency also urged national adoption of uniform low-clearance warnings signs on highway bridges and improved best practice guidelines and training for pilot car escort drivers.

“This costly accident was the result of a series of mistakes that could have been avoided,” said NTSB Acting Chairman Christopher Hart.

“Movement of oversized loads is a specialized operation that demands special precautions,” Hart added. “What this investigation uncovered were multiple gaps in multiple systems and repeated occurrences of similar bridge strikes.”