Bridge Clearance!

As a truck driver you must always beware of bridge clearance. Almost every bridge is marked with the height in feet and inches. Unless you are hauling an over height load you should be alright on most interstates. Check all bridge clearance signs.

Low Bridge Ahead!

The biggest problem is when you are on secondary roads and back roads in rural areas. Many times, I have seen low bridges but never a warning sign.

Bridge Clearance! Standard Height 13' 6"

Most van trailers are marked on the front driver’s side so you can see the height from your mirror. The standard height of van trailers is thirteen feet and six inches (13’ 6 “) high.

When it comes to legal height limits you must check each state. The Eastern half of the United States is 13’ 6” and the Western half is 14’ with a few exceptions. The height limit in Colorado and Nebraska is 14’ 6” and Alaska is 15’.

Approach Bridge With Caution!

Low bridge clearance signThe bridge you see first has about 18-20 ft. clearance. The 10 ft. is not visible yet.

Be careful approaching bridges that have a low clearance. If the sign says 13’ 7” and you are 13’ 6” you will want to go very slow. By going slow, you can back up and get out if it does touch. If you are moving along at a decent speed and it is too low, you will probably get stuck under the bridge. Go slow and look for oncoming vehicles to spot for you. You may even have to get out of the truck and look for yourself.

Low clearance bridge photoAt this point you can see the 10 ft. bridge past the turn around.


The first photo is deceiving. It shows a 10 ft. clearance but when you look at the bridge it is much higher. At this point you haven't seen the second bridge directly behind it which is 10 ft. You would naturally assume you can clear it. By the time you have passed the turnoff to avoid the bridge you see the second 10 ft. bridge and need to back up. This is a very busy (5th Ave.) street in Chambersburg.

Staying alert in your truck is essential. Do not take for granted the signs you see regarding bridge clearances. This would be really embarrassing to shear off the top or front of your trailer. Not only would you possibly demolish the trailer but the jurisdiction you are in will charge for the cleanup. They will also charge for any damage done to the bridge and surroundings.

Never Trust Your GPS!

Never trust your GPS to get you there. If you don’t have a Truck Configured GPS then beware. Regular GPS devices do not tell you about low bridges, let alone any bridges. They will not tell you about weight limits on roads either.

Uhaul truck hits low bridge

I live in the Borough of Chambersburg near one low bridge. I have helped many truck drivers get turned around and then I will escort them around the low bridge. Every driver has told me they were following their GPS. There is even a sign over a mile from the bridge stating the height. Also, the road has a 16-ton weight limit, but the drivers seem to ignore this also.

Keep the Shiny Side Up and Dirty Side Down!

Remember, if you get caught on one of these roads it would be costly being overweight. In Pennsylvania, overweight fines are very high compared to Maryland, Delaware and a few others. I tell people if you are caught in Pennsylvania the overweight fines are in the thousands while other states are in the hundreds. Again, every state is different.

Staying alert and not texting, making phone calls, etc. while driving is the best advice. Keep you eyes on the road and surrounding signs. Keep the “Shiny Side Up and the Dirty Side Down”

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