Snooper trucks and boom lifts are not all created equal. Technically speaking, most boom lifts aren’t really Snooper trucks anyway. While the name has stuck over the decades to refer to most any under bridge inspection boom lift vehicle, it’s actually a registered trademark name originating with the Paxton-Mitchell Company.

It was more than five decades ago, back in 1964, when the first “SNOOPER®” Underbridge Inspection and Maintenance Truck was designed and manufactured by Paxton-Mitchell. However, when it comes to the more generic usage of the term “Snooper” truck, this can refer to any of several different types of boom lift vehicles, including actual Snooper® trucks.

While these vehicles are used for many purposes, bridge inspection is one of the major fields for “snoopers” or boom lifts. There are more than 600,000 bridges in the United States. These structures are vital for moving people and goods over water and land, across cities and the open country. They facilitate the passage of personal vehicles, trucks, and rail trains. 

However, while the volume and frequency of all this combined traffic increases, many aging bridges are approaching the end of their useful life. And many others are overdue for repairs and upgrades. 

In fact, many reports estimate the number of structurally deficient bridges to be well over 64,000. And, compounding the issue is the fact that the state government agencies responsible for inspections and infrastructure repair continues to be underfunded.

Boom Lifts, Cherry Pickers, Aerial Lifts, and Under Bridge Inspection Units

A boom lift by any other name is, essentially, a vehicle or platform that supports a moveable boom with a basket or platform attached to one end.

And if you are in the business of regularly cleaning, repairing, inspecting, or carrying out routine maintenance on the underside of bridges, you appreciate the importance and value of these versatile pieces of equipment.

Without being able to work from a basket or platform that can be placed directly underneath a bridge deck, most of the required inspection, repair, and maintenance work would be difficult if not impossible to accomplish.

There are, of course, other methods that are still employed today either using scaffolding or rope rigging, but these methods are labor intensive and do have their limitations. Part of the beauty of an under bridge inspection unit, or “snooper” truck, is that it can often be deployed in less than a half-hour once on-site. 

In addition to the speed of setup and deployment, these vehicles can be placed all along the full length of most bridge decks, which can allow for complete under bridge access with the proper boom components.

If the bridge deck lies less than, say, 150 feet from the ground below it, then an under bridge unit can be positioned directly underneath providing the ground below is stable and not an active roadway or railway. Of course, if the bridge spans a body of water, then under bridge access will be limited to what can be reached from the bridge deck.

Some under bridge inspection units are equipped with several booms, or a multi-jointed arm, that can provide extensive reach both down below the grade of the bridge deck, but also under the bridge and often a full 180 degree sweep. 

These vehicles, often referred to as Snooper trucks, are manufactured in a variety of types, sizes, configurations, and capabilities that allow you to meet any number of bridge inspection, cleaning, or maintenance needs.

They can be trailer mounted, truck mounted, and even – in some instances – self-propelled units that can crawl along a bridge deck while being controlled remotely by the bridge inspection crew.

And They’ll Probably Always be Called “Snooper” Trucks!

To illustrate the widespread and common usage of the term “snooper” when referring to a boom lift vehicle, here’s a small excerpt from an article by a major engineering design/build firm,

Snooper trucks allow bridge inspections from a bucket safely underneath the bridge. The articulating arm is operated by the inspector as they position it in the right location. “A lot of time you have to rely on good old-fashioned technology to get the job done,” says Jordan. “To perform the necessary inspection underneath a bridge, it’s just a lot easier and safer to use a snooper.”

Although this is not the technically correct name for just any boom lift or under bridge inspection unit, among those in the industry, however, everyone understands what is meant by a “snooper.” 

From Walter E Thornton-Trump’s “cherry picker” back in 1951 to the Paxton-Mitchell “Snooper®” in 1964, the boom lift has been a “boon” for bridge inspectors.

When You Need a Snooper for Under Bridge Inspection

With the wide range of capabilities available, determining the best choice of “snooper” truck for your bridge inspection project can be challenging. However, it often depends on the structure itself and the terrain you’re working on.

Price is a major consideration, of course, but your specific project needs and required capabilities should be the primary deciding factors for your under bridge inspection truck choice.

 We provide quality under bridge equipment throughout all the Western States, including California, Washington, and Oregon. Our inventory of under bridge access platforms include the state-of-the-art self-drive access platform, the Trailer Mounted Hydra Platform HPT32 and the Aspen Aerials A-30 Unit.

We take a great deal of pride in being the only company in California that offers total under bridge access. By offering high quality customer service, we have managed to build long-lasting relationships with our esteemed customers. And we intend to keep it that way.

Contact us today to discuss your requirements.