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Board Meeting Washington State I-5 Bridge Collapse, May 23, 2013, Mt. Vernon, WA, Acting Chairman's Closing Statement
Christopher A. Hart
Mt. Vernon, WA

In closing, I want to again recognize the NTSB staff for their hard work in developing and presenting this excellent safety report. Investigator-in-Charge Robert Accetta and his team did an outstanding job of documenting the physical evidence at the accident scene and bringing to light the many missed opportunities to prevent this accident. Their work resulted in the wide-ranging recommendations we adopted today.
I also want to thank my fellow Board Members for their very helpful participation in the process.
Movement of oversize loads is a specialized operation that demands special precautions.
What this investigation uncovered were multiple gaps in multiple systems and repeated occurrences of similar bridge strikes.
We learned about gaps in the permitting and route surveys conducted for oversize loads.
We learned about the lack of guidelines and training for pilot/escort drivers.
We learned about the specialized skills and knowledge required of CDL drivers hauling oversized loads to determine safe routes, coordinate effectively with pilot/escort vehicles, and control and position oversize loads on the roadway.
We learned about the importance of states sharing information about bridge strikes to prevent future collisions.
And, we learned about federal guidance for low clearance signage that has not been updated for more than half a century.
We have recommended that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) update and standardize guidance on signage that includes the proper lane of travel for overheight vehicles. And we have made recommendations to the FHWA and industry groups for other improvements to the safe transportation of oversize loads, including pilot escort vehicle operations.
We have made recommendations to Washington State’s Department of Transportation to strengthen its permitting process, and to require both lead and trailing pilot escort vehicles when a vehicle is as wide as or wider than a travel lane.
And we have made other recommendations on other ways to close the safety gap, including bringing modern technology to bear on route safety and banning unnecessary use of portable electronic devices in pilot escort vehicles.
If acted upon, these recommendations should help protect bridges that are integral to major transportation arteries, save lives, and prevent injuries in the future.
But they should also help to prevent much more common but less severe incidents, as robust safety precautions play an ever increasing role in the safe transportation of today’s oversize loads across our roads and highways.
We stand adjourned.