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Originally published Sunday, June 2, 2013 at 3:55 PM

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Editorial: Prevent another bridge collapse

Some drivers are understandably wary of crossing bridges in the wake of the Interstate 5 disaster over the Skagit River.

Seattle Times Editorial

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TRUCKING companies and state transportation officials should pursue and enforce common-sense measures to mitigate the risks of another bridge collapse similar to the May 23 disaster over the Skagit River.

An investigation into that Interstate 5 accident will likely yield long-term recommendations. For now, simply remind commercial drivers to follow the rules.

They are supposed to report the correct measurements for their loads when applying for state permits, which can be done online without supervision.

Washington Department of Transportation officials say drivers have the responsibility to scout routes to ensure they are traveling over roads that can handle their freight’s weight and dimensions.

Pilot cars should be outfitted with poles that match the height of their oversized loads, and those pilot drivers must remain in close communication with their truck drivers on whether to proceed.

Most follow the rules, but a DOT analysis of state data shows bridges were hit at least 59 times between 2010 and 2012. Washington State Patrol issues hundreds of warnings or citations to commercial drivers for violating height restrictions.

Republican state Sen. Michael Baumgartner’s proposed Senate Bill 5944 would deny permits to loads higher or wider than the minimum clearance on the bridges they’re going over.

DOT officials could mitigate additional risks by posting signs warning drivers of bridge clearances. Structures that are 15 feet 3 inches or more in height, including the Skagit River bridge, do not require signage. The state should review this rule.

Signs obviously help, but any oversize load first requires a permit and a routing plan.

Trucking companies should review and reinforce their protocols.

The Skagit bridge collapse shows how serious human errors can be.

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