Here’s why an oversized truck needs a permit in Seattle

It could have been much, much worse.

Last week, an oversized load on a flatbed semi-truck struck a bridge in Seattle.

The truck was on bottom ramp, heading south on the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

If you’re not familiar with the Viaduct, here’s what it looks like from the side. The oversized load was on the lower bridge.

Seattle_Alaskan_Viaduct_highway_Oversized truck crash
Highway 99 – Alaskan Way Viaduct, Seattle

The driver of the oversized truck hit the bridge supports with his load of giant metal spools. The spools were about 12 feet in diameter, and 700-1000 pounds each, according to Seattle Police Department.

One of the spools was tilted against the side rail, above the street below.

If the spools had fallen, or the bridge cracked, the results could have been catastrophic.

Seattle Police Department-oversized truck crash photos
Seattle Police Department posted truck accident photos to Twitter

A Trucker’s Mistakes

First of all, the truck driver and his employer Midwest Specialized Transportation failed to get a permit for driving on the Viaduct, which has a 14-foot height limit.

Had they applied for an oversized truck permit, the trucker would have known the clearance restriction. They could have gotten help from the city of Seattle to plan another route.

The truck driver—who should be thanking his lucky stars that no one was injured or killed—was cited $428 for failing to obtain a permit and striking the bridge.

Secondly, it looks like the driver should have had a pilot car escort him through the city.

When load height exceeds the legal limit, it becomes the responsibility of the permit holder to check all underpasses, bridges, overhead wires or any other structures for impaired vertical clearance, and to bypass or arrange clearance at such locations. If you have any questions, call Seattle Transportation Traffic Permits at (206) 684-5086.

14’1” through 14’11” high: 1 pilot car, front

15’ 0” through 15’ 5+” high: 2 pilot cars, front and rear

15’ 6” high or over: City of Seattle Commercial Vehicle Enforcement escort required

From Seattle Transportation Department website 

Finally, the truck driver should have been able to see for himself that the load was too tall.

There are clearance signs on the Viaduct. A driver behind the semi truck saw the crash:

“You could see it was too tall … He hit a bump, both reels smashed the upper deck”

Seattle Cleans Up the Oversized Truck Crash

Seattle’s police and fire departments managed to clear the crash site in about two hours. This is remarkable, considering that a truck crash in March took 9 hours to clear, and gridlocked the city for hours.

An overnight inspection by Washington State Department of Transportation determined that the Viaduct was stable, and safe for driving.

This went as well as could be hoped, given the circumstances.

But truck crashes like this remind us that everyone on the road is relying on semi-truck drivers and their companies to plan their routes, follow the law, and drive safely.



Image (altered):  Seattle – Alaskan Way Viaduct 02″ by Joe Mabel. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons. 


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2 Responses

  1. I didn’t realize that applied for oversized vehicle permits that deal with big loads could help you get help planning a route. It’s important that these truckers understand the safest and most effective route they can take to complete their jobs. Driving a large truck like this seems pretty complicated. I would imagine that they’d take all the help they can get.

  2. It’s great to know that the city officials can actually help an overloaded truck find a better route if they apply for an overweight permit. A couple of overloaded trucks have caused accidents in our city for the past five years that I’ve been living here. It’s one of the reasons why I always try to avoid highways. Hopefully, every trucking company that has overloaded trucks get oversize permits to keep everyone safe. Thanks for this!

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