“A tool is but the extension of a man’s hand, and a machine is but a complex tool. And he that invents a machine augments the power of a man and the well-being of mankind.”

– Henry Ward Beecher

While it is true that there are good tools and not-so-good tools, the quality of any tool is largely determined by the user. Even top-of-the-line tools can fail to do their job well if not handled properly.

And this applies to under bridge inspection equipment, as well.

One Crack, One Bridge, One Harrowing Disaster Narrowly Avoided

In a previous article here, we looked at the massive cost and repair efforts that recently went into repairing the damaged I-40 Hernando de Soto Bridge connecting Arkansas and Tennessee.

The bridge had been inspected as recently as the spring of 2020 and the Arkansas DOT team used an Aspen A-75 under bridge inspection vehicle to carry out the inspection. One of the key questions in the subsequent investigations is how the inspectors could miss what appeared to be a quite visible crack on the outside face of a tie girder.

A recent article in Practical Engineering explored the various aspects of the damage and subsequent closure of the I-40 Hernando de Soto Bridge over the Mississippi. After detailing various engineering and metallurgical points, the article concludes that,

“Bridge inspections are not easy. Even on simple structures they often require special equipment – like snooper trucks – and closing down lanes of traffic. Complicated structures like the I-40 bridge require teams of structural engineers trained in rope access climbing to put eyes on every inch of steel. And even then, cracks are hard to identify visually and can be missed. Inspectors are humans, after all.”

The author went on to add,

“Quality management is an absolutely essential part of all engineering activities. We know we’re human and capable of mistakes, so we build processes that reduce their probability and consequences.”

The point here is that inspections of bridges are not guaranteed to be 100 percent each time, every time. There are many factors including what occurs during the time between inspections as well as the inherent limitations of human capabilities.

An additional point is that because of the height and structural elements of most bridges, special equipment, such as “snooper” trucks – that is, under bridge inspection units – are almost always needed to aid the inspectors in their task.

The Importance of Good ‘Tools’ for Under Bridge Inspections

In the case of the Hernando de Soto Bridge, it wasn’t a case of insufficient nor inappropriate tools or equipment. 

As an article from the Arkansas Times explained, 

“Somehow, teams of Arkansas bridge inspectors, going back years, failed to notice a major separation in the bridge’s steel tie girders. Those tie girders were considered to be “fracture critical” — meaning that if they lost their integrity, the bridge would collapse, and any number of more than 47,000 drivers who cross the DeSoto Bridge every day could plummet more than 120 feet into the Mississippi River.”

Fortunately, this never happened and the bridge, as of August 2, 2021, was reopened after a series of extensive repairs and assorted additions were completed. 

Fixing the one crack necessitated an original contract for the repairs for $4 million to $5 million, but the total ended up being a bit higher due to ongoing inspections and plate installations, not to mention construction costs of about $7 million and design costs of about $1.4 million.

However, even when adding the estimated $2.4 million a day in trucking costs for 84 days, it is an arguably small price to pay to avert what could have been an unconscionable disaster.

And the equipment being used was deemed more than sufficient for the job of routine bridge inspections.

At Under Bridge Platforms, for example, we routinely rent these types of under bridge equipment such as the DFM Bridgemaster-Art-B-4, as well as the smaller 

Aspen A-30 bridge inspection unit.

Your Best Choice for Under Bridge Inspection Equipment

We are Under Bridge Platforms, and we provide quality under bridge equipment throughout all the Western States, including California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Montana, and Wyoming.

Our inventory of under bridge access platforms includes the state-of-the-art self-drive access platforms such as the Truck Mounted Hydra Platform HPT43 and the versatile Aspen Aerials A-30 Bridge Inspection Unit.

There are a variety of capabilities with different bridge inspection platform vehicles. Determining the best choice for your work or project depends on both the structure and the terrain. While cost is also a factor, the vehicle capabilities and your specific project needs should be the dominant deciding factors.

Having a professional firm you can rely on to guide you through the process of hiring the right under bridge inspection vehicle and bridge inspection platform equipment for your project is key to making the proper selection.

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 and let us help meet your under bridge platform needs.