Schadenfreude is, perhaps, too strong a word to describe that feeling we get when we hear that yet another hapless person behind the steering wheel of a tall truck fell prey to that confounded bridge.
After all, we bear no actual malice toward these folks who fail to heed flashing low-bridge warnings about the 11-foot-8 railroad overpass on Durham’s Gregson Street, near Brightleaf Square. But we can’t help but shake our heads and laugh (while being grateful that no one was gravely hurt) every time a truck top gets violently soda-canned or sheared there. And it happens a lot.
As of Dec. 8, 2015, when an Advantage truck scraped the ol’ 11-foot-8 monster and lost a couple of metal pieces, it’s happened 101 times since April 2008. The guy doing the counting is Jürgen Henn, a systems analyst whose workplace proximity to the hilarious mishaps since 2002 led him to eventually set up cameras and record them for his popular website 11foot8.com.
Some of the site’s most spectacular videos have drawn more than a million views, which led The Wall Street Journal to run a Jan. 6 piece on this particular crash-vid craze. (Front page, no less—look toward the bottom left on the image below.)
From the WSJ:
Trucks often get stuck under the bridge in Mr. Henn’s clips. That leaves time for him to chat with drivers while they deflate their tires to lower vehicles enough to free them. Some tell him they didn’t know their trucks’ heights. Others insist they didn’t see the signs.One said, “‘Oh, no. Not this bridge,’ ” Mr. Henn says. “He knew the website. He had seen the footage. And he still hit the bridge.”
There have been no deaths, and only one injury (not too serious), according to the story. But the damage to vehicles since 2008, according to the NC Dept. of Transportation, has reached around $500,000, as reported in the Journal.
Naturally, the “Canopener Bridge” is the scourge of area truck rental companies.
Local rental companies alert drivers to it when they hand over truck keys, especially because insurance generally doesn’t cover the overhead damage. “We warn people all the time to avoid that area,” says a spokesman for Avis Budget Group Inc.’s area office.
Durham’s transportation department is working this week to hook the oft-ignored height sensor to a traffic light, in an effort to prevent such accidents. That could put a dent in Henn’s website views and souvenir sales (crumpled metal, of course). But as he tells the WSJ, Henn’s not sure the drop-off in truck whoopsies at the bridge would be terribly significant.
“We’ll never totally eliminate stupidity in this world,” he says.
Reached by the INDY Wednesday afternoon, Henn said his website got twice the usual views that day, a bump he attributes to the national story. (Later that evening, the increase was 30-times normal.)
And he’s gotten a lot of congratulatory emails from Journal readers from outside the state, including one that reinforces his belief in the website’s unique appeal.
It came from Todd Solomon, who works in digital communications at the U.S. Dept. of Transportation.
“It was just like, ‘Hi, great website,’” says Henn. “It’s nice to get a thumbs up from the U.S. Department of Transportation. That was very cool.”