Esquimalt residents woke up to a large bang and the piercing screech of metal against metal as a semi-truck lodged itself underneath an E&N bridge Thursday morning. While outsiders might be shocked, for occupants of Hereward Road it was just another regular occurrence.
The short road runs through a semi-industrial area between Pine and Wilson streets and neighbours the head office for Monk Office Supply, as well as a Wholesale Club and a U-Pak Mobile Storage facility, making it a popular area for semi-trucks and moving trucks.
In the middle of Hereward Road are two neighbouring bridges; one concrete, and one low railway bridge that has seen many semi-trucks and, as some neighbours recall, even a double-decker bus get stuck underneath its low 3.7 metre barrier.
“We call that bridge ‘The Can-Opener,’” said Hereward Street resident Justine Semmens. “It happens probably once or twice per year.”
On Thursday, the Sharp Transportation truck was able to get out quickly by slowly reversing, leaving parts of its roof still embedded within the bottom of the bridge.
For truck driver Kevin McComb, the wedge came as a big surprise and a first in his 44-year a career. McComb is familiar with the area, but chose the route to get to the Monk headquarters because in the past, roads off of Tillicum were under construction and he couldn’t get through.
“There’s no signs saying ‘no trucks,’ and the [concrete] bridge says 3.7 meters, but it’s the one past that that is the problem,” McComb said, noting when his truck’s airbags are completely full it measures 3.8 meters. “The train bridge has extra rails so that brings it down even further, which I didn’t know.”
McComb and his wife, who was also in the truck, were not hurt and were able to back out from the bridge, but saw $50,000 in damage to the truck and trailer.
Bridge is cleared with a couple pieces of the roof of the truck left pic.twitter.com/MBDgBPyi27
— Victoria News (@VictoriaNews) October 11, 2018
Other trucks were not so lucky.
On March 27, a Van Kam semi-truck got stuck under the bridge, sustaining extensive damage and taking more than six hours to get dislodged.
Just three months before that, another semi-truck also became lodged under the bridge, crushing most of its trailer.
The question of why so many trucks go down this residential road can be answered in part by a combination of truck navigation routes and a dispute on which governing body is responsible for the area.
Truck drivers are told of trucking routes through specialized navigation applications, as well as Google Maps.
The News tried several approaches to test out what truckers are told, searching a common route from Swartz Bay to 800 Viewfield Rd. – the Monk Office headquarters.
On Google Maps, several routes were available including one going straight down Hereward Road, with no warnings of a low bridge. On Trucker Path – a popular trucking navigation app which offers information on weigh stations, scale status, diesel locations, and rest areas – results were similar.
The app said it could not find an “optimized truck route” in the area, however, if drivers used the map anyway it would recommend going straight down Hereward Road, with no warning signs of a low bridge.
“I am the first person to agree with you that this is less than perfect today,” said Truck Path chief business officer, Chris Oliver in an email. “That is why I am happy to let you know that before the end of this year we will offer navigation that is specific to large trucks. Although I believe the multiple notifications we currently have in place adequately notify users today, this upgraded feature will surely mitigate the situation you’ve described going forward.”
|A screenshot from the Trucker Path app shows a recommended route between Swartz Bay terminal and the Monk Office Headquarters at 800 Viewfield Rd. that goes straight down Hereward Road and underneath a low hanging E&N bridge. (Screenshot/Trucker Path)|
The other problem lies with a grey understanding of who is responsible for the area, and for better signage.
The Township of Esquimalt said signage on the rail bridge itself was an issue for the Island Corridor Foundation, the group that owns and manages the former E&N corridor. The ICF in turn said they had signs on the bridge, and that any surrounding street signage was an issue for either Esquimalt or Victoria, who both sit on the corridor’s border.
“We had this discussion about two months ago specifically about this bridge,” said CEO Larry Stevenson, noting that bridges across North America are often hit by trucks. Stevenson also said he was unaware of any trucking routes heading into the area, but that the issue will be explored.
“We’ll definitely look into this,” he said. “We certainly would like to see a stop to trucks hitting our bridges.”
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