Methods to Prevent Bridge Strikes by Trucks/Bridge Strike Challenges, Prevention, Mitigation Strategies and Best Practices

The objectives of this research are to (1) develop guidance for state departments of transportation (DOTs) to individually and collaboratively prevent bridge strikes and (2) create an accessible, readable summary of how state DOTs are addressing bridge strikes through engineering, technology, enforcement, education, and collaboration. Bridge strikes inflict serious damage to trucks and highway structures, cause injuries and fatalities in initial and secondary crashes, impose costly delays and detours on other highway users, and require expensive incident response from highway owners and public safety agencies. Attempts to prevent bridge strikes—including signing, lighting, height detection systems, and actuated warning devices—have achieved only limited success. Lack of comprehensive information on bridge strikes contributes further to the problem. By one estimate, more than 3,200 bridge strikes occurred during the period of 2007 – 2017 at a cost approaching of $1 billion, but this estimate does not include all states. Many bridge strike collisions are unreported and may go undetected until the next scheduled bridge inspection. Even reported collisions may not be reported as bridge strikes, because no standard “check box” exists on crash report forms. Lack of information limits understanding of the frequency, impact, causation, and potential mitigation of bridge strikes. Trucks that exceed the posted clearance of a bridge over a roadway can strike the bridge, setting off a chain reaction of damage and danger: (1) the oversized vehicle can be damaged or suddenly stopped and pose a safety risk to other vehicles; (2) the impact to the bridge can damage or destroy part of the bridge structure, causing falling debris or structural damage that affects other vehicles; (3) response (removal of the truck and bridge debris) and recovery (bridge inspection and emergency repairs) after the bridge strike incident can cause significant delays and congestion, which can lead to higher risks of additional crashes; and (4) bridge repairs and reconstruction can be expensive and limit the usefulness of the bridge structure for other traffic (road or rail) and of the roadway under the bridge during the repair process. The mismatch of truck sizes and bridge clearances can be the result of a number of circumstances: (1) Bridge clearances on state or national freight network roadways can be less than a state’s minimum design standards (there is no federal limit on truck heights), which can affect trucks operating within state legal size limits; (2) Permitted oversize (and/or overweight) trucks can fail to observe routing restrictions and posted clearance signage; (3) Legally sized trucks can malfunction or loads can come loose and trucks can strike a bridge without the driver being aware of the problem; and/or (4) Posted bridge clearances can be inaccurate due to successive pavement overlays on the roadway under the bridge or to modifications to the bridge structure. This research would equip state DOTs to learn from a comprehensive assessment of bridge strike strategies, beyond a bridge-by-bridge protection approach. This research would allow states to learn from each other before a high profile, high consequence bridge strike incident compels a more restrictive regulatory response for all states.


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $400000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 08-139

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

    444 North Capitol Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Project Managers:

    Dekelbab, Waseem

  • Start Date: 20200811
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01739642
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 08-139
  • Files: TRB, RiP
  • Created Date: May 18 2020 3:05PM