It takes a steady truck with a long arm to ensure British Columbia bridges stay shipshape for your safe crossings.
The bridge inspection truck is one of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s coolest tools. What makes it so cool?
The truck’s arm, or crane, is capable of reaching about 14 metres above bridges (for checking parts such as suspension cables) and 23 metres below bridges (for inspecting parts such as bearings and bolts).
“The bridge inspection truck is the only thing that allows us access,” says Bridge Inspection Technician Terry MacKay while examining under Sombrio Bridge 2, near Port Renfrew, from the crane bucket. “Sometimes [on small bridges] you can free climb, you can tie on to get to places. But with this particular one there’s no other way to do it.”
The bridge inspection truck is also one of a kind – literally. A single truck and its two-man operating team travel all over the province, coordinating with ministry area managers, bridge inspection technicians, and work crews to inspect provincial bridges and make repairs.
“We cover the whole province, from Atlin to Fernie, from Fort Nelson to Vancouver Island,” says Bridge Inspection Supervisor Rees Davidson during the inspection of Sombrio Bridge 2. He’s been operating the ministry’s bridge inspection truck for more than 20 years.
“We see it all and we do pretty much every town, every year.”
The ministry oversees about 3,000 bridges across B.C., reaching as high as 100 metres from the ground. Technicians first inspect whatever sections they can from the ground before climbing into the truck’s bucket, where Bridge Inspection Operator Kelly McKen handles the controls and tours them around to areas otherwise inaccessible.
As you can imagine, safety is our top priority when operating the bridge inspection truck. The biggest danger is a vehicle impacting the truck while the crane is in operation. That’s why traffic control is such an integral part of bridge inspections, and another reason why drivers should be extra careful when approaching cone zones. Pass through the bridge inspection work zone slowly and give lots of space.
Of course, Rees and Kelly are also responsible for working safely. They maintain regular radio contact in order to manoeuvre the crane safely.
“There are lots of positions with the crane that I can’t see, so we communicate together,” says Kelly. “It keeps the crane safe, keeps us safe – no damage to the bridge.”
Are there any other cool tools you’ve seen on B.C. highways? Let us know and we’ll try to tell their stories on TranBC.