Kansas construction firm has bad day

If your truck drivers need a reminder to measure the equipment loads they’re hauling, an incident that happened near Hays, Kansas, in February is one of the best you’re likely to find.

An excavator being transported on a flatbed trailer smashed into an Interstate 70 overpass, its boom raising as it ripped more than halfway through the bridge. “We’ve never seen anything like this,” says Kevin Zimmer, area engineer for the Kansas Department of Transportation. “The boom just punched a hole through the deck.” Zimmer says minor overpass hits occur from time to time, but they usually take a 1- to 2-foot chunk of concrete out of the bridge and then slide under it.

The Transportation Department plans to bill Garden City, Kansas, firm Lee Construction, the owner of the tractor trailer, for the mishap. Cleanup costs totaled $134,000 and Zimmer says a 45-foot bridge section replacement could cost hundreds of thousands. Eastbound lanes of I-70 through Hays were closed for 11 days, sending drivers on a 9-mile detour. Zimmer says work on the bridge is scheduled to start this month and it will probably reopen to traffic in July.

The truck driver, Michael Conley, didn’t have the necessary permits to be on the interstate and was supposed to travel on two-lane roads. Unsure of the route he should take when he reached Hays, Conley looked at a map and saw he could use the interstate to get to his destination, Zimmer says. The excavator struck the first overpass he came to, about a mile into his journey on I-70. No one was injured in the collision, although debris damaged a sport utility vehicle that was driving alongside the semi. The trailer carrying the excavator separated from the truck.

Zimmer has this advice for anyone hauling large construction equipment: “Before you get headed down the road, check your actual height and make sure you know your route really well.”