Drivers' Corner - Caring in Action

Low Underpasses

By Bob Hataway

Have you ever gotten caught by a low underpass? I picked up a load of wooden pallets in Garrison, Texas, early in the morning and was traveling back to Houston with the intent of getting unloaded that day.

The pallets were stacked 20 high, which I knew would be near the limit of 13' 6". But I wanted to get as many as I could and the bill of laden just looked better with 400 pallets instead of 380.

As I approached the underpass, south of Shepherd on US 59, I knew that it would be close. I slowed to a crawl and eased under the underpass. About halfway, I saw a chain moving. I had gone as far as I could and would have to back out.

With my flashers working, I began to back out. A four-wheeler not realizing what I was doing barely missed my trailer, skidded sideways, but managed to gain control going through the underpass.

After stopping and surveying that he did not have any damage, he started toward me. He was a big man about 6' 4" and 300 pounds. I figured that what was coming I had no control over, so I would do what I had to do. Turned out, he was a local minister and only wanted to know if I was hurt. (He must have loved fried chicken and banana pudding.)

From that day forward, the difference in 20 pallets took on a new meaning for me. This could have been avoided by following a few simple procedures:

  1. Check the height of your load or your trailer during your pre-trip inspection or after loading.
  2. Understand that 13' 6" is not 13' 7" or 13' 8" but is 13' 6". The height stated on the underpass clearance sign does not have an automatic buffer zone.
  3. If you are close and you cannot change your load or trailer then find an alternate route. I had to travel an extra 75 miles and did not get unloaded, losing an extra day.