Paoli Bridge Destroyed By Truck: 23-Year-Old Female Driver Faces Charges

December 29, 2015 | By Garrett Montgomery More

A Paoli bridge accident that has a lot to do with mathematics is making headlines. Despite a clear sign saying No Large Trucks, the driver of a semi-trailer carrying 43,000 pounds of bottled water attempted to cross the Paoli bridge in Paoli, Indiana prompting it to collapse.

Paoli bridge pic

The famous Paoli bridge in the tiny town of Paoli in Indiana has been destroyed by a truck, whose driver is not a big fan of road signs. On Friday, at around 12 PM, the female driver of a 2015 Volvo semi-truck, who ignored the road signs that read No Large Trucks and Restricted Weight Bridge 6 Tons – drove through the Paoli bridge.

According to Orange County Indiana Law Enforcement, the driver, a 23-year-old Indiana woman named Mary Lambright, was transporting 43,000 pounds or 21.5 tons of bottled water in the trailer. The semi-truck, which was attached to a 53-foot box trailer, ripped open when Lambright crossed the bridge because it was taller than the clearance height. The added weight caused the bridge to collapse.

It is not yet known how much money will be necessary to repair the historic iron bridge, which was built in 1880 by the Cleveland Bridge & Iron Company. Lambright, of Fredericksburg, and her 17-year-old cousin/passenger, escaped the accident unharmed. Lambright, who received her Commercial Driver’s License endorsement about eight months ago and works for Louisville Logistics, has been hit by a list of charges.

Lambright was cited for reckless operation of a tractor-trailer, disregarding a traffic control device, and having an overweight semi on a posted bridge. The truck was taken away from the scene and will be inspected by Indiana State Police. Lambright told police that she was heading to the parking lot of the Paoli Wal-Mart, but missed the exit.

After several attempts to turn the truck around in various locations nearby, she decided to drive it across the bridge over Lick Creek. The young woman, who should have gotten herself a good old-fashionned calculator for Christmas, went on to reveal to authorities that she had driven over the bridge before in her own car and was fully aware of the 6-ton weight limitation. However, she had no idea that when converted, her truck was transporting over 21 tons of water.

The Paoli bridge accident has many blasting the company for hiring such a young and inexperienced driver. It also sparked a debate about women being bad drivers and being terrible at math in some corners.

What are your thoughts on the Paoli bridge accident?

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    1. Joy says:

      I work with so many people this girl’s age. They all seem to ignore clearly posted warning signs. They all seem to cut corners and rush into things. They all think they’re so clever and are going to get away with everything. She’s a complete idiot. Deserves fines, community service and should have to re-take her license test and do further traffic safety schooling. She owes her community for destroying it’s history. And why is it acceptable for her under age cousin to be along for the ride? Presumably present to help with the unloading. I want to hear a statement from the company that paid her to do this to the town.

      • Joe says:

        Mrs. Joy. This lady should NOT be allowed to retake her CDL for some time for this. as for her cousin… her cousin is NOT under aged to be a passenger in any vehicle. The age limit for passengers in a Semi is typically 8 years old, unless you own the truck. Most companies have you pay an insurance premium for your passenger prior to driving. I am a 43 yr PROFESSIONAL TRUCK DRIVER and I will tell you, not excusing this incident, but driving a truck is not very easy and being alone in them is equally as hard, she has every right to have her cousin as a passenger, who has nothing to do with this incident.

      • John says:

        Ok that she ignored the rules and should pay for it. But now, to consider that metal bridge “historic” only because it is old, that’s just ridiculous. Washington fought on it against the Brits or what? That bridge was probably still there because there wasn’t much large traffic in the area. Well, time to improve this country’s infrasrtucture and throw sentimentalisms away. That only causes troubles like this.

      • Stormageddon says:

        As a 23 yr old Nuclear Engineer, I think it’s wrong of you to pass judgement on all young people (my age) saying we all cut corners and rush things, based solely on the actions of one driver who wasn’t thinking/paying attention, or even on the actions of the people you work with. The driver’s age and gender should not factor into this at all, as there are plenty of people of all ages who make mistakes or cause problems as bad as or worse than this. However, I do agree that under these circumstances the driver should receive penalties such as community service and fines. I do not know enough about the rules and regulations of professional truck driving, and so can not pass judgement on whether an under-age passenger should or should not be allowed in the truck as well, though I do think it would be worth finding out, if only because it is sad that they were in such a hazardous situation. But after all of this, I am sorry, 21.5 is significantly larger than 6.

        • Common Sense says:

          You may be among the exceptions. I am 70 and have witnessed everyday young people disregard for the laws of this country and their dangerous driving habits. Automobiles are loaded weapons in the hands of unconscious individuals despite their age. Crosses spring up on every road for young people who kill themselves due to their atrocious driving. Wake up and smell the blood.

        • J. Bishop says:

          @Stormageddon – I agree with you that it’s wrong to pass judgment on all young people and group them all into one category. My daughter is that age and she is a single mother, on her own, and works as a Corrections Officer at a State Prison – a men’s prison – including max. She is very responsible. I am quite sure she would have pulled over somewhere safe and contacted dispatch for instruction or assistance. That would have been much better than just winging it. I’d like to see this individual’s records from the truck driving school. I’m curious how she could pass without knowing weights and heights. That semi is clearly too high to clear that bridge. I have been on the road and seen trucks pass under bridges with only an inch or two clearance and I just slowed way down, held my breath, hoping they wouldn’t hit the bridge. I don’t think her age has anything to do with it. Some truckers take risks and shortcuts to save time and they aren’t young drivers either – just careless and in a hurry to get to their destination. A vehicle, any vehicle, is considered a dangerous instrumentality – a weapon if you will – in legal terms. The testing should be very strict. Thank goodness the load wasn’t hazardous material. Personally, I feel she should lose her CDL for good. A semi is just too dangerous to be in the hands of someone who takes it so lightly.

      • Michael says:

        Joy, It’s plain to see that you DO NOT know anything, about the TRUCKING INDUSTRY. IF you care about your image, you will keep your NOSE, OUT of the TRUCKING INDUSTRY. Yes, the young lady did bad, and yes, she will pay for it. That accident will ruin her career as a truck driver. UNLESS the Company she is driving for, gives her a second chance.

      • Linda West says:

        She’s trying her best! Only 23 years old, good person. I love story!

    2. Joe says:

      This age thing is a bunch of crap! I am a CR England Driver and I see young folks driving everyday. Dont beat her or the company up for her age, thats down right age discrimination. Our country has long since outgrown this BS.

      This driver took an calculated risk with out due regard to her life, her passengers life, the lives of those around her, her companies 200k truck and hundreds of thousands of dollars of the customers freight. She should be fired and charged. I see truckers sometimes ignore these road signs, but they are on actual high capacity streets which could easily withstand the weight of this truck without damaging the road. Ive never seen and I have never driven across a bridge that says no trucks. This is just a ridiculous mistake by a lazy driver who has absolutely no skill to turn her truck around in tight spaces nothing more, nothing less. her age or sex is of NO CONSEQUENCE here.

    3. Gary says:

      Speaking as a former driver trainer I demand you write a retraction apologizing to this woman and every professional driver. You have no right to judge unless you have lived the life yourself. Ask yourself where did I get the clothes on my back, the car I drive, the house I live in and the interstate system I drive on. Guess what you wouldn’t have any of it without a trucker. Everyday Professional drivers all over this country are risking their lives many dying crossing decrepit bridges, living on minimum wage all to bring you the precious stupid things you can’t live without. I am sorry that iconic bridge was destroyed. Its better she collapsed it and survived then you right? You probably wouldn’t have survived. Judging by the pictures it was going to fail soon from lack of maintenance anyway. I hope next time before you write such hateful rhetoric that you tone down your language as I have.

      • Matt says:

        Really… you are going to blame a bridge that has been standing for over 100 years for failing because an incompetent driver took a truck that was too tall and way too heavy (even if empty) over a bridge that was explicitly marked as not allowing trucks. I guess it will be the fault of a pedestrian bridge failing the next time she pulls a load.

        • Gary says:

          Clearly you missed the point! It wasn’t the drivers fault at all!! It is truly a wonder drivers aren’t being killed by the thousands when you consider most of the bridges in the us are structurally deficient. Not to mention the substandard driving school she attended. I said it before and I will say it again, when you get a CDL from either these substandard driving schools or worse the training you receive from many major trucking companies you have a legal license to commit suicide! Just by looking at the pictures the bridge was deficient even for car traffic! Not to mention the authors chauvinistic tone in the article. For your information she probably will never drive again, so she is now unemployed with fines she can’t pay. Unless you are offering to pay them for her I suggest you mind your manners and not reply.

          • Jeff says:

            Wasn’t the drivers fault?? That is by far the dumbest thing I’ve seen on this thread… as a 33 year otr driver/o/o I will say this…ready???
            1. Sign says no trucks
            2. Other sign says weight limit 6 tons

            Shes an idiot and so are you…. who did you train for? Swift??

    4. Rick says:

      It seems to me that even six tons was too high a limit for that bridge. someone approaching that bridge should have also been aware that it was a small, old bridge and was not going to hold a full truckload of anything. Attempting to cross here was not a conservative decision.

      • Eddie says:

        Gary makes a good point that people’s efforts go unrecognized. However, It’s also worth noting that the trailer was too tall for the bridge and ripped open from the top. Come on, I can empathize will the driver but you can’t blame the bridge.

    5. Chuck says:

      This girl got her CDL in May and she had this accident in December. There is no way that in 6 months someone can obtain enough experience to pilot a truck weighing 80,000 lbs. The trucking company is at fault for placing someone with no experience behind the wheel of a truck. The fact that this driver said she didn’t know how much 6 tons was just shows her inexperience. More and more trucking companies are buying trucks with automatic transmissions so they can hire people with no experience driving a semi truck. Despite what people might think it does take a measure of skill to drive a truck that is 80 foot long weighing 80,000 lbs in rush hour traffic without killing someone. If trucking companies would pay a decent wage without trying to boost their profit margin by going cheap on their drivers maybe they could keep decent driving force. I have over 3 million miles over 30 years of driving and I have to deal with these kind of drivers everyday, many of them immigrants that can’t even speak English.

      • Eddie says:

        Chuck, good thinking. Pay for better drivers and give more support. But let me add on to that. I’m a recently laid-off professional with a degree in mathematics and finance. I figure the companies could use better riders too. …Have your daughter call me.

      • tim says:

        chuck well said after 30 years I came off the road to many bad drivers out there can thank the feds for that going to cdl don’t know about you but I miss the old days before cell phones and all the bull crap with dot would still be driving if it was like the old days but found good job driving yard truck sleep in my own bed at home not in a truck any more

      • Gary says:

        You’ve got that right brother./

      • driver says:

        Hey chuck, f$ck you, you old cranky ass drivers should be taken behind the barn and smashed in the head with a hammmer. US newer drivers hate you too.

    6. FirstCav says:

      I have a lot of respect for professional truck drivers and being a truck driver is hard work. There is a big difference between a professional truck driver and this driver. She “had” her CDL for 8 months. After this crash she will probably never drive a truck again.

    7. Kristen says:

      I think with all the darts and diatribe flying around, there is a keen point missing here. If her cousin was along to help, she should have been assisting in navigation or at the very least, not provided the distraction that caused the missed exit in the first place. Once ‘aground’ in the suburbs, it is nigh impossible to turn a semi around, so she–the driver–likely frustrated and late, took a calculated risk. Hoping. She obviously failed, but driving is a full time occupation, not in the forty hours sense, but in the all five senses way. You are operating heavy machinery, running a maze with other (often terrible) drivers and working against the clock. Hats off to the drivers who dedicate their efforts at keeping us provided; I certainly couldn’t do it.

    8. Dennis says:

      This is incredible. These companies hire these inexperienced drivers yet I have 5 years experienced, am highly trained and even recently took an 800 hour refresher course, and I can’t get a job. I have never had any type of citation whether it be safety or traffic. I need a job yet these inexperienced drivers get them and then do stupid stuff like going into restricted areas. Geeeeeeezzzzz.

      • FirstCav says:

        I suspect it is your experience that is hurting you. These companies don’t care about “experience” they want cheap drivers. Your 5 year spotless driving record will add what .25-.50 per mile to the cost of over a new inexperienced driver.

        The freight company was taking a calculated risk with this driver because this is probably a dedicated route with little risk. It’s going from the Walmart warehouse to the Paoli walmart with easy access from the interstate. She proved them wrong on the risk side by missing her exit. Insurance will pay for the bridge. Time will fix any name recognition with the company. The only person that will be remembered or blamed for this incident is the female driver.

        • Scott C. says:

          The load was picked up at c.c. Roxanne in Benton, tn.
          This company like all other companies are trying to cover loads that they don’t have drivers or equipment for! Whether she’s male orfemale is of no consequence. Inexperience is the answer! Any driver even out of school is taught stop, check your directions, use an atlas, phone and call receiver for directions, and be late. Most of all plan your trip!!!!! Know where your going, know restrictions, and last but not least! THE ROUTES,RESTRICTIONS are YOUR RESPONSIBILITY!!!!! She could have went to another exit done flip went back to her exit and went the proper directions to her delivery. If it’s. Walmart load, she would have had turn by turn directions to the store or DC! Been there done that!!!!! Out of 25 yrs and nearly 300,000 safe miles running west coast from Tn.
          She had no business running without a trainer!!!!

        • Linda West says:

          I love true life story, she’s brave woman to even attempt to drive big rig at her age. I love it. No body got hurt. Life’s about moments like this. Maybe, driving for FedEx might be better for her.

    9. Bob says:

      My 7th grade daughter knows what a ton is. I drove a rig in my 20’s and it is not rocket science. For all of you who think that trucking is some “high-risk” industry, think again – the cars on the road are more vulnerable to big rigs than the big rigs themselves. It was inconvenient for her to go back to the exit where she should have disembarked so she took the “shortcut”, and now everyone else in the town has to pay for it. If she died it would have qualified for a Darwin award. Evidently it’s quite a bit easier to destroy a bridge than to design it, get the funds for it, and then construct it. She didn’t respect her math teacher, she didn’t respect the engineering, she didn’t respect the law, and she didn’t respect history. Her company didn’t check her out properly, probably was paying her a low wage, and the standard for getting a big rig license has always been REALLY low. In safety engineering the human factor is always the biggest risk – and now she’s proved she’s a huge risk. The girl and the trucking company should pay for the bridge, not the town, county, or state, and hopefully she will never be insurable again because of her demonstrated stupidity.

    10. Mark Carlton says:

      Mr. Montgomery should stick to the facts. Through the tone of his writing he injects his opinions, which are of no value. A reporter’s job is to report, not opine.

    11. Overtrucked says:

      Traveling interstate highways today, I see a staggering number of trucks. These things need to be limited! Put this cargo on trains, and get these things off the highways by limiting them to a limit, say, 100 miles of a railroad freight depot. These rigs are becoming a hazard on our highways!

    12. Stephen says:

      It is the fault of the company she works for . As they hired an inept driver so they don’t have to pay union wages.

    13. Mike says:

      You can really get a CDL without knowing how many pounds in a ton?

      • Edwin says:

        As I remember, there are not any questions about that on the CDL test. If you’re real interested, you can go to your local motor vehicle dept. and get a copy of the CDL manual (usually it has everything in it you need to know to pass the written test) and see if it is in there.

    14. Joe says:

      You should try sitting in the drivers seat of a big rig, it will give you a new perspective the next time you pass one head on!!! I didn`t see a height restriction in any of the signs, did I miss that? Most effective sign I ever saw for that was in texas near llano it said if you hit sign, you`ll hit bridge. Somebody made it and hung it, ingenious, something out dept of highway engineers can`t seem to design.

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