EDITORIAL: Ramp up efforts to end bridge strikes

A tractor-trailer at the Glenridge Road bridge in 2016
A tractor-trailer at the Glenridge Road bridge in 2016

Another day, another photo in the paper of a truck sardine-canned under the Glenridge Road train bridge in Glenville.

It’s a frustrating problem that repeats itself not only in our neck of the woods, but throughout the country and the state.

Truck drivers are involved in about 150 bridge strikes a year in New York, costing taxpayers more than $30 million, causing traffic jams and putting truck drivers and other motorists at risk for injury or death.

For years, state and federal officials have tried all sorts of things to prevent such accidents, from adding bridge-height information to trucker traveler books and apps to installing a multitude of signs in advance of bridges to alert drivers.

Yet despite these efforts, truck drivers continue to strike bridges with alarming regularity. The train bridge on Glenridge Road has a particularly ignominious history, having been struck about 60 times in the last several years, including twice in the last month, the latest on Sunday.

The state recently put up additional warning signs, yet drivers still hit it.

This has to stop. And it requires more creative efforts from the state and federal government to do so.

One thing that could get truckers to pay more attention is tougher penalties.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this year proposed significant increases in the fines, raising them from the modest $200-$500 (hardly a deterrent) to $5,000 for a first offense to $7,500 for subsequent offenses. Other penalties could include suspension of registrations and licenses.

Signs ahead of a bridge citing the new higher fines might get a driver’s attention better than a flashing yellow light and serve as a deterrent.

The state Legislature is considering a bill (A4251) that would require every commercial truck in New York be equipped with a commercial GPS device that would include information about a truck’s height and weight, as well as directions for routes that include height and weight restrictions of the roads. That’s one idea.

On the federal level, Sen. Charles Schumer earlier this year was among several Northeast senators pushing for companies like Google, Apple, and Waze to update their non-truck-specific GPS apps to include commercial vehicle routing information.

With today’s technology, there’s no reason for a trucker to be unaware of any low bridge on his or her route.

Adding more effective signs, like those that trigger flashing lights when a truck passes under a beam set at the bridge height have proven effective. So have rumble strips in the road and signs in advance of a bridge set at the height of the overpass that gently strike the top of the truck to alert the driver of what’s ahead.

Do all that, plus legislation and higher fines.

Truck collisions with bridges are completely preventable.

It’s time to ramp up efforts to reduce them everywhere.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

Leave a Reply