Truck Stuck In Sumner Tunnel (Boston) Friday Afternoon/evening

Topic 32651 | Page 1

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Ryan B.'s Comment
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Truck Stuck in Boston's Sumner Tunnel

I think this is a good teaching moment. Bridge heights and tunnel heights are two important things that all CMV drivers must know when planning a trip. In order to properly plan, it's important to also know the dimensions of your CMV.

There are four tunnels within Boston. 2 of the tunnels have a height clearance of 13'6" (Ted Williams Tunnel -- I-90 -- and O'Neill Tunnel -- I-93). The other 2 tunnels have a height clearance of no more than 12'6" (Sumner Tunnel -- State Route 1A WB -- and Callahan Tunnel -- State Route 1A EB). This driver, could have taken I-90 and gone through the Ted Williams Tunnel. Obviously I don't know the exact dimensions of this truck and trailer, but it is reported to be a Volvo truck. Images of the trailer stuck in the tunnel appear to be a standard dry van or reefer trailer. It's a safe bet that this CMV's height is 13'6". If this CMV happened to be over that height, I-95 is a viable option to route around the tunnels.

I have a load that I am picking up tomorrow afternoon in Lynn, MA. This happens to require me to travel near the area where that truck got stuck. I am currently parked west of Boston. My path would either require me to route north of the city to avoid the tunnels or find a tunnel route with which I am compliant by dimension. My trip planning has shown me that taking I-90 through the Ted Williams Tunnel is a safe route for my CMV, which is a height of 13'6". Not all truck and trailer combination vehicles have the same dimensions, so it's important to know your vehicle's height, width, and length, though 13'6" is the most common height for a combination tractor and dry van/reefer trailer.

As for driving a vehicle with a height of 13'6" on a road that has a height clearance of 13'6", I have heard debates among drivers as to whether this is safe or not. Some will say it's taking a risk because bridge/tunnel heights and vehicle heights are not exact. It's each individual driver's call as to whether to trust or not trust the accuracy of that posted clearance height and a CMV's height. In some instances, you may not have a choice, however, as your destination may require using a road with a 13'6" clearance because there is not another viable path for getting to your destination. In addition to trip planning, it's important to also watch signs while driving. If for some reason the route you are on requires a detour, you don't want to make a mistake in taking an exit that has a height, width, length, or even weight restriction for which your vehicle is not compliant.

If you have found that you missed a clearance sign until it's too late to take a different path, turn on your 4-ways, pull over, stop, and set your brakes before trying to get under that clearance. After those steps, look up the phone number for the local police and call for assistance. The driver of the truck that got stuck in the tunnel received multiple citations, as reported. Had the driver followed those steps, the driver would have avoided doing damage to the truck, trailer, and tunnel. Also, many times drivers who call for assistance themselves before doing any damage will be guided out of the situation without a citation written. It's not a guarantee that no citation will be written, but it's a possibility. What isn't a possibility is getting stuck, doing damage, having to be rescued, and then avoiding a citation.

Be safe out there. Head on a swivel and G.O.A.L.

Combination Vehicle:

A vehicle with two separate parts - the power unit (tractor) and the trailer. Tractor-trailers are considered combination vehicles.


Commercial Motor Vehicle

A CMV is a vehicle that is used as part of a business, is involved in interstate commerce, and may fit any of these descriptions:

  • Weighs 10,001 pounds or more
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more
  • Is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) not for compensation
  • Is designed or used to transport 9 or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation
  • Is transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards

Dry Van:

A trailer or truck that that requires no special attention, such as refrigeration, that hauls regular palletted, boxed, or floor-loaded freight. The most common type of trailer in trucking.


A refrigerated trailer.


Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Mr. Curmudgeon's Comment
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I have encountered underpasses labeled 13'6" that just didn't LOOK right three or four times. I pull up, 4 ways on, window down, and stop. GOAL and look for scrapes on the leading edge and FAR side (upslope inside can reduce the clearance for your mid to tail) If they looked ok, then I used to creep up to the point where the front of the trailer is a few inches away from the leading edge. Take a look while standing on the catwalk if you can. One unlabeled underpass in StLouis had scratch marks on some of the rivets on the lower surface of the cross beam.... that one I backed up a block or so and made 2 left for a re-route.

If in doubt, re-route. Calling the locals for help is never wrong...

Ryan B.'s Comment
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That is great advice. I always tell newer drivers to never fear calling local police for help. I have done it twice myself and everything that I have heard from drivers who have been around much longer is that police would much rather deal with a driver who is willing to admit needing help than to respond to a scene where a driver thought he had it handled on his own.

I want to add a couple things regarding the original post here. First, a couple of minor corrections. The Sumner and Callahan Tunnels are State Route 1A SB and NB.

While driving I-90, the clearance signs for the Ted Williams Tunnel showed 13'9". The information that I used for the original post came from the MassDoT website, so I am not sure as to the reason for the clearance information discrepancy.


Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.


Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.


Transportation Worker Identification Credential

Truck drivers who regularly pick up from or deliver to the shipping ports will often be required to carry a TWIC card.

Your TWIC is a tamper-resistant biometric card which acts as both your identification in secure areas, as well as an indicator of you having passed the necessary security clearance. TWIC cards are valid for five years. The issuance of TWIC cards is overseen by the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

BK's Comment
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Some time ago in a similar discussion, Kearsey said if she is in doubt about a bridge clearance, she will pull over and stop until another truck makes it under the bridge (or not make it). That may not be possible to do in every questionable situation, but it was a good suggestion.

I only once encountered a bridge marked 13’6”. Crept slowly under it and had clearance, but it couldn’t have been much. Nobody needs to create a sunroof on their trailer.

G-Town's Comment
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The overwhelming majority of these incidents can be prevented with adequate trip planning, common sense and reading basic signage.

We’ve seen numerous examples where failing to read and comprehend signage results in a truck wedged under an overpass.

George B.'s Comment
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The Northeast is notorious for overpasses stating 13'6" etc. But being old roads repaving etc this changes. If there is a lot of packed snow this can change also.

Navypoppop's Comment
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Overhead clearance warning signs are there for a reason. Unless you are in New York state where most are posted a foot shorter than actual clearance. Driving on the BQE with clearance signs reading 12'6" for the first time is enough to make you "pucker" to the seat real quick until you see every truck moving along like nothing happened.

BK's Comment
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I finally measured the height of my trailer. At both the front and rear it measured 13’ 4” from the top to the ground. All the trailers I pull are company trailers and they are all the same. But I would still be very careful if I encounter a bridge marked 13’ 6”. Two inches is not a lot of clearance.

Sallier's Comment
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Having to drive in and around NYC so much in my short time doing this, most of the clearance signs are actually wrong - by that I mean they're measured from the top of the sidewall/walk area and not the road - and yes when first having to do it seeing other trucks hauling @$$ through made me feel better about continuing. As the dedicated account I'm on goes into MA I appreciate this thread and will keep it in mind if any of those routes ever bring me up to the Boston area, so far my deliveries in MA have been around Chicopee and Ludlow but there are some routes I've not been on yet that do go around Boston so again, thanks for this advice!


Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
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