Trucks hitting tunnels and bridges; legal issues.

What are the legal issues when a truck hits the ceiling of a bridge or tunnel that is too low for the truck, in any country? Are the drivers criminally charged? I assume that the truck company, or their insurance company, will have to pay for the damages.

I assume the charges are careless driving… Obviously the duty of the driver is to take care not to cause damage to his vehicle or anything else, and the result is foreseeable if you drive under a too-low bridge. At the very least, someone will be paying for an engineering inspection.

One provisio - if the low obstacle is not properly signed… We had an incident once, on private property, so no charges - but the driver took out a fibre cable with the dump truck bed up. The understanding was that the clearance, as marked, was 16 feet and should not be an obstacle. Over the years, the road bed had been “improved” several times with fresh gravel. As a result, it was 2 feet higher than it should be.

If the municipality or state failed to properly sign the obstacle, or worse, had a misleading sign, then they too might be liable instead or addtionally.

There is a bridge about a block from my office which used to be for a local rail line. The main road of the business district originally went directly across the tracks, but about a hundred years ago a path was dug out under the tracks to allow cars and trucks to cross, creating the bridge over the road, for the trains.

There’s only 11’ 10" of clearance, and every few weeks another truck hits it. The top layer of the truck gets peeled back like a sardine can. It’s really a cool sight to see. Never any damage to the bridge whatsoever. But it does cause havoc to the local traffic for a while, until the police come and get everything clean and orderly again.

Everyone wonders why they don’t just tear down the bridge, given that not a single train has gone over it in more than 30 years. The answer can’t be that maybe someday they’ll use the tracks again, because less than 100 yards away, buildings have been erected on those tracks.

So here’s the punchline: The rumor around town is that the city sees no need to go to the expense of removing the bridge, because the fines they charge to the truck drivers who hit it is far in excess of the actual costs of removing the damaged truck.

I work in insurance and have taken claims for exactly this sort of incident before. The insurer will pay out, but you can bet they’ll attempt to subrogate and get their money back. They may send out an investigator to make sure the actual clearance matches what was on the sign–if it doesn’t, then they’ll go after the municipality.

I’m not a cop, but I can’t imagine criminal charges would be filed against the driver unless they caused the structure to collapse and seriously injured or killed people. They might lose their job, depending on the employer. However, if the clearance sign was inaccurate (which is rare, but possible), then I wouldn’t expect him to get so much as a write-up.

Keeve, is it this one on Durham, NC?

As a person who’s hit such a bridge with a rental truck, no, there are no criminal charges. It’s charged to insurance. Those bridges are incredibly strong and those trucks are pretty flimsy up high, so there’s not normally any damage to the bridge.

Can’t be. The one in the video has a train crossing it at about 19 seconds and is 11’ 8", not 11’ 10".

Too busy watching the trucks.

Here’s the law for Texas, where the vehicle’s owner is responsible for damage. Presumably, the driver can also be cited, but I can’t absolutely confirm that.

It’s come into play a few times in the Houston area this year, when trucks have gotten stuck under overpasses.

I’ve seen steel beams installed just before some bridges. The steel is the same height as the bridge and can take a lot of damage, and even if you do somehow mangle the steel it’s not structurally part of the bridge so there’s no danger of bringing it down.

That “toughest bridge” in runner pat’s link looks to have a beam like that installed (along with signs and flashing lights that warn you when you are going to strike the bridge, and yet they still plow into it with alarming regularity).

Sorry, I’ve been away for a few days.

Nope, that’s not it. But it certainly could be. The shape of everything is almost identical. I did a double-take on the first shot.

Thanks for that link! I will be sharing it with ALL my friends and neighbors! We usually only get to see the aftermath, now we can see it in progress!

The most bizarre crash I’ve seen did not have any parallel on that video. It was a truck which actually did have enough clearance, or rather, it would have had enough clearance if the road was flat. But this truck was MUCH longer than most. It had no trouble getting the front end under the tracks. But then the road starts to curve upwards. About half the truck had successfully made it out the other side, but the front end is still climbing vertically. And then the crunch came. But instead of peeling back the truck’s roof like in so many of those videos, the train tracks ended up pushing the roof down. Okay, more accurately you’d say that the truck’s bottom pushed up against the tracks, but I hope you get what I’m saying. The result was that the front and back ends were fine, but the middle was scrunched, and it took a VERY long time to extricate that one!

“Get your truck stuck?”
“No, I was delivering that overpass and ran out of gas.”

is the best bridge damage pictures i have ever seen.
5 miles east of my home town is a bridge that was low clearance and was hit numerous times and had major repair done from being hit. The hyway was repaired 3 years ago and a big part of the hyway being closed that summer came from digging the hyway down to provide standard clearance.
My boss, back before retiring lost a brother and his car pool when they met a truck carring a backhoe that hit the bridge and came off the trailer onto their car under a bridge. And a co-worker lost his father who also worked at the same company the day he signed his retirment papers enroute home and met a backhoe that came off a lowboy the same way. :frowning: small world some times :(:frowning:

I know that railroads have very strong legal rights so that might be why an old bridge is not torn down. We had a case where they built a new road across railroad tracks and they had to close down another road/RR crossing to do that. I think it’s related to the fact that RRs go back so far in history , way before roads existed.

There is actually a website dedicated to that bridge. There are more videos that didn’t make the cut to the compilation.