Following his GPS, 18-wheeler slams into Brandon covered bridge

BRANDON — An eighteen-wheeler bound for the Woodchuck Cider storage facility in Brandon tried to fit its 13-foot, 6-inch trailer under the 12-foot clearance of the Sanderson covered bridge on Jan. 8, causing extensive damage to the bridge.
A GPS unit is being blamed for sending the driver down the dirt road that leads into Brandon from Route 30.
“He did quite a bit of damage to the bridge,” Town Manager David Atherton said. “The front of that is just fascia and a smaller beam, but he got under there into the support beam, which is a much larger beam, and caused structural damage to the bridge.”
Atherton said the bridge on Pearl Street, which was built in the 1800s and goes over Otter Creek, has been damaged by trucks that were too large trying to fit under it before, but never to this extent.
“It’s been damaged before, but again it’s usually just that wood fascia on the front,” said Atherton.
Those past incidents usually occurred late at night or when no one was around to see and the culprits were never caught. Atherton said that with the help of a concerned citizen and good work by the Brandon Police Department, this driver was caught before he slipped away.
The driver of the semi-truck, owned by Swift Transportation, managed to get his trailer nearly four feet under the bridge, despite being a foot and a half too tall for the clearance. The wooden supports for the bridge cracked and splintered before the driver stopped. The driver then backed his rig out from under the bridge causing further damage before he turned around.
As the driver turned around to head back to Route 30, Tamee Johnson, a Sudbury resident, snapped a picture of the truck.
“I was going downtown and I saw a big rig backed into a driveway,” Johnson said. “It looked like he was stuck and there was a little damage to the top of his truck. I wasn’t sure if he had hit the bridge or not, but I took a picture of his truck.”
Johnson said she is not sure what made her take the photo, she just felt like something was wrong with a semi-truck being down that dirt road. After the truck passed her, she continued on and saw the damage done to the bridge. A short time later, she saw a town worker and told him she had a picture of the truck. The police were soon on the case.
Brandon Police Chief Christopher Brickell caught the driver at the former Tubbs facility, which is now home to storage for Vermont Hard Cider, LLC.
“At first he was making out like it wasn’t a big deal because it looked like it had been hit before, but by the end he said he thought he might have gotten away with it,” Brickell said.
The driver was cited with leaving the scene of an accident. Atherton said the town had engineers out to look at the bridge and that the bridge is drivable, but does have structural damage that will need to be repaired. The town’s insurance will get the driver’s insurance company to pay for any needed repairs. There is no timeline on when that will happen
“I don’t know what made him think he could go under that bridge,” Johnson said. “At least the driver’s insurance will have to pay for it, and the town (or town’s insurance company) won’t be stuck with the bill.”

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