Passenger struck after trucks stop to check bridge height in New York

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | Friday, October 19, 2012

An attempt to be cautious did not pay off for truckers who stopped to check whether their vehicles would fit under a New York bridge on Monday.

The Associated Press reported that three out-of-state trucks, northbound on Route 63 in Livingston County southwest of Rochester, stopped to check the height of a bridge in the town of York. One of the truck’s passengers, 24-year-old Jabril Jama of Seattle, was struck by a southbound minivan. Jama was treated for head trauma and a broken leg according to the report.

The incident is another example of truckers being “damned if they do, damned if they don’t” when trying to navigate New York infrastructure.

Bridge heights can be confusing to some in the Empire State, and that can lead to bridge strikes.

The New York State Department of Transportation posts many bridge heights using a 12-inch buffer to account for factors that could shrink the safe zone such as changes to the pavement or ice buildup. A bridge with an actual height of 13 feet 8 inches would be posted at 12 feet 8 inches, for example.

But not all bridges are posted that way. Some are posted according to their actual height. Those are marked with the word “actual” on the signage. Truckers have told Land Line that the system forces truckers to figure out – sometimes the fly – whether to believe the sign.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, has gotten into the action by calling for a federal GPS standard for trucks. He blames a lack of GPS standard for routing trucks onto roads with low-clearance bridges.

While truckers acknowledge that bridge strikes are a problem, they don’t buy that it’s solely because of relying on a GPS. They say reliable data from the state of New York would help remove the guesswork.

A report by the state DOT acknowledges the GPS issue but also highlights other factors including pavement changes, the out-of-state issue, and various issues related to signage.

See related stories:
Senator calls for GPS standards for trucks
What’s your clearance, Clarence? Truckers navigate tricky New York bridges

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