HOW MIGHT BRIDGE DATA HELP DRIVERS AVOID “CAN-OPENER” ACCIDENTS?

Problem: THE OHIO DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION (ODOT) SPENDS $1,000,000 ANNUALLY TO FIX BRIDGES HIT BY OVERSIZED VEHICLES.

There are 762 bridges in Franklin County, but information on their dimensions is often scattered and hard to find. We believe there’s opportunity to fill this “app gap” and help motorists navigate their way around – or under – Columbus bridges.

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This is the second time this year trucks have hit the Norfolk Southern railroad overpass heading to Rickenbacker airport cargo facilities.” – Village of Lockbourne Mayor, Christie Ward. (Photo credit: Michelle Jones)

Value Story: As a local official, I want truck, fleet, and bus drivers to have access to updated bridge data on GPS applications so can stay safe and prevent unnecessary accidents.

Context:
With many “can-opener” or bridge strike accidents occurring with fleet vehicles, local county officials and trucking companies alike share concern over the bridge height awareness challenge faced by truck drivers. The costs of bridge strikes can be measured beyond just the truck repair itself, but also terms of safety, commuter frustration and lost time. With almost 1800 logistics, delivery and trucking companies in the Columbus area, the impact of these accidents can be felt across the region.
Although 88% of freight in Ohio is hauled by trucks, this issue is larger than just freight. We all praise the GPS apps that help us get around, but there is no current resource that tells drivers if the vehicle they’re operating is too tall for the upcoming bridge. As a truck, bus driver or fleet operator, this is pertinent information that is currently lacking while navigating our streets.
Far too often, this results in "can opener" accidents, where the bridge peels off the top of the truck. These bridge strikes can cause damage to not only the truck and bridge, but they can sometimes be fatal to the drivers. In addition, many people have been hit by falling bridge debris after the accident.
One recent bridge strike alone was estimated to have caused $210,000 in damage. While Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) pursues reimbursement from insurance companies, time and resources could be saved if data on bridge dimensions could be applied to help avoid such collisions in the first place.
Meanwhile, many bridge strikes aren’t reported unless the truck gets stuck. We believe there is an opportunity to create apps or other solutions that could facilitate the reporting of bridge strikes, so officials could more proactively understand and address bridge damage.

There are 27,000+ bridges in Ohio, the 2nd highest count in the country, and there are 762 in Franklin County with many at risk for bridge hits.

Possible Approaches:

  • Analyze bridge data to make our roads and bridges easier to drive on, more cost effective to manage and safer for everyone.
  • Explore speed data to determine potential relationships between bridge, speed, and crash data.
  • Innovate solutions that can prevent bridge strikes, proactively re-route oversized trucks, make it easier to report bridge damage and more.

 

Potential Partners:

  • App Developers
  • Civil and Transportation Engineers
  • Logistics companies
  • Researchers
  • Transportation Planners at the local, county, regional and state level
  • Truck, Bus, and Fleet Operators
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