Pilot driver calls bridge collapse 'preventable'



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Posted on May 27, 2013 at 6:40 PM

Updated Monday, May 27 at 9:16 PM

An Ephrata pilot car driver, who was called to help escort the same truck that brought down the Skagit River bridge last Thursday, calls the incident “preventable.”

Herb Reynolds, a veteran pilot driver, said Monday he was asked to help guide the Mullen Trucking rig over Snoqualmie Pass. Medical issues kept him off the job, but he questions why the truck driver kept going over the crossing despite height concerns.

Pilot car drivers across Washington told KING 5 the bridge collapse is perplexing and concerning. Investigators with the National Traffic Safety Board said Sunday they were still trying to interview the woman who was piloting the doomed truck along Interstate 5 from Canada.

“We’ve gotten phone calls from all over the country with drivers we work with wanting to know what is going on,” pilot driver Al Jensen said. “If the pilot car hit the bridge, why did the truck driver keep going?”

According to witnesses, a high-pole above the pilot car struck the bridge’s west facing edge.  42-year-old truck driver William Scott was behind the wheel of the Mullen Trucking semi and told investigators he was blocked from moving to the safer left lane by another tractor-trailer.

Pilot car drivers are required to be licensed. According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, the test takes one day and involves a fifty-question, open book test.

Washington is also one of the few states that does not give truck drivers routes through the state, instead relying on drivers to work out their own path. Oregon, for instance, gives truckers a mandatory path to follow.

Routes are provided by WSDOT if requested.

Reynolds speculated the bridge collapse is part of a larger issue of some truck drivers neglecting to listen to their pilot cars.

“He should’ve backed out of it,” Reynolds said. “Most of the time, the drivers will be coming and they’ll want to get picked up on the fly. The pilot car doesn’t have any idea of the route.

“This happens,” he explained. “And it shouldn’t.”