For those who work in the industry of inspecting highway bridges or repairing and maintaining them, the work can seem somewhat insignificant. For many, bridge inspections have been conducted since long before they were even born. 

But that wasn’t always the case, nor is the practice of inspecting bridges remotely insignificant.

The 55th Anniversary of the Silver Bridge Collapse – A Somber Observance

A recent press release from the West Virginia Department of Transportation noted that,

“Fifty-five years ago today, the deadliest bridge disaster in modern history occurred when the 2,200-foot Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant collapsed into the freezing waters of the Ohio River during rush hour traffic, killing 46 people. The Dec. 15, 1967, collapse of the Silver Bridge led directly to federal regulations on the inspection of bridges and an increased emphasis on bridge safety that endures to this day.”

The article goes on to quote Tracy Brown, P.E., West Virginia Division of Highways (WVDOH) State Bridge Engineer,

“One of the main reasons I became a bridge engineer was to make sure something like the Silver Bridge collapse never, ever happened again,”

The Silver Bridge was constructed using steel eyebars, which supported the bridge from above like a giant bicycle chain. But the bridge had a critical flaw: while many eyebar bridges of the time had several chains on either side to provide redundancy, the Silver bridge only had one chain on each side of the span to hold up the bridge decking.

The bridge collapse was subsequently pinpointed to the failure of a single link in the chain from a stress crack – a fracture that would likely have been difficult for inspectors to have spotted. 

The bridge, which connected Point Pleasant with Gallipolis, Ohio, collapsed without warning at 4:58 p.m., as many were on the road to do their Christmas shopping. The tragedy led to the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1968, which established a National Bridge Inspection Program which created bridge inspection standards still in use today.

“Over the past 50 years, that law has saved countless lives by standardizing bridge inspection processes nationwide,” said Brown.

Bridges Require Inspections and Lots of Them!

Because of the federal mandates and requirements for the inspections and repair of highway bridges throughout the United States, state DOTs conduct, or have conducted, inspections on a regular basis.

While federal guidelines through the FHWA require regular inspection of bridges and culverts on public roads with a span 20 feet or more, many states also require inspections of shorter bridges and culverts. In addition, some states have expanded the definition of the types of structures considered bridges.

Essentially, the NBIS establishes three required time frames for bridge inspections:

  1. Routine inspections – no less than every 24 months
  2. Fracture-critical member inspections – no less than every 24 months
  3. Underwater inspections – no less than every 60 months

In addition, there are five other types of bridge inspections required by the federal government. 

Here is a list of the required inspection types found in the Code of Federal Regulations:

Inspection type Description
Damage inspection An unscheduled inspection to assess environmentally or accident-caused damage.
Fracture-critical member inspection A hands-on inspection of bridge components that could lead to serious consequences if fractured.
Hands-on inspection A visual and hands-on inspection of any part of a bridge.
In-depth inspection A close-up inspection of parts of the bridge that can take place above or below water level. The objective is to identify any issues that may not be detectable with more routine inspection procedures. 
Initial inspection This is the first inspection of a bridge when initially opened for public use. The goal is to determine baseline structural conditions and to collect baseline bridge data.
Routine inspection This is a regularly scheduled periodic inspection, which includes visual and hands-on measurements. It is done to determine the physical and functional condition of the bridge, identify changes in the bridge from the previous inspection, and to ensure the bridge is safe and meets service requirements.
Special inspection This is scheduled by the bridge owner to inspect a known or suspected issue.
Underwater inspections These are inspections of any underwater sections of a bridge and the water areas around it. They often require specialized diving and other techniques and equipment.


What most of these bridge inspections have in common is that they require specialized access equipment. While some of these types of equipment allow for underwater access, most of them are designed to place inspectors and bridge workers underneath the bridge deck. 

Which is why under bridge platforms and inspections equipment is so vital to the work of routine and other types of bridge inspections.

 Your Best Source for Under Bridge Platform Equipment

With the wide range of capabilities available in under bridge inspection equipment, determining which unit to rent for your bridge inspection project can be challenging at times. However, the size and type of equipment needed often depends on the bridge structure itself and the terrain underneath.

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

As professionals in the industry, Under Bridge Platforms is fully capable of guiding you through the process of renting or buying the right vehicle and equipment for your project. Our combined years of experience and knowledge are key to helping you make the best choice.

We provide quality under bridge equipment throughout all the Western States, including California, Washington, and Oregon. Our inventory of snooper trucks and under bridge access platforms include the Truck Mounted Hydra Platform HPT43, a state-of-the-art self-driving access platform, and the Barin Automatic Bridge Control ABC 50/C.

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.

So, contact us today to discuss your requirements at 707-528-0373 or email us at [email protected]