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A stone bridge on Kelly Drive partially severed the top off a tractor trailer on Saturday. The driver of the 18-wheeler had to pull off the roadway with a gash in the rig’s front right corner. One of the tires also appeared to catch on fire.
Captured on video by photographer Joe Kaczmarek as the vehicle detoured onto South Ferry Road in East Falls, the whole scene looked pretty gnarly.
On average, Philadelphia sees two crashes per year from trucks driving down the scenic road, according to city Streets Department spokesperson Kelly Cofrancisco. Just this February, photos surfaced of a U-Haul truck damaged by scraping the bottom of one of the overpasses that crisscross the roadway.
If you’re thinking, “Hey, trucks aren’t supposed to be on Kelly Drive in the first place!” — you’re right, although it’s hard to find a definitive answer online.
According to Cofrancisco, it’s absolutely illegal for trucks to travel on the curving road that hugs the Schuylkill River as the waterway stretches northwest from Center City Philadelphia. Signs are posted in regular intervals along the route to let motorists know, per Cofrancisco. The practice carries a $500 fine, enforceable by the Philadelphia Police Department.
All that doesn’t stop some drivers from testing their luck. Or possibly they “are not experienced truck drivers,” and just miss the signs altogether, Cofrancisco said.
What constitutes a truck, anyway? The city doesn’t appear to maintain a page where these rules and regulations are clarified. Here are the basics.
Can I take my truck on Kelly Drive?
The cutoff for vehicles allowed on the riverside roadway is 10,000 lbs., or 5 tons. That means most regular cars are OK. An average modern sedan weighs in the ballpark of 3,500 lbs., while an SUV or minivan clocks in at about 4,800 lbs. Pickup trucks usually top out at 7,000 lbs., so they’re fine, too. So are the small U-Hauls.
An RV, however, can weigh around 10,000 lbs — so steer clear of the route if you’re driving one of those, or anything heavier. Tractor trailers can weigh 30k pounds when they’re empty. Definitely out.
This is why you don’t see public transit buses on Kelly Drive either, since they usually weigh between 20,000 and 35,000 lbs.
Why can’t trucks drive on it?
Well, if you want to face off with a stone bridge, that’s on you. The minimum clearance for those picturesque overpasses is 9 feet, Cofrancisco said.
The 10,000-lb. limit mostly rules out vehicles that are too tall — so if you follow that guideline, you should be fine.
Another thing: The anti-truck rule is meant to prevent noise pollution, since Kelly Drive runs through Fairmount Park and other recreation areas, and has a sister jogging and pedestrian trail that snakes alongside it.
Who makes these rules?
The trucking guidelines for Kelly Drive are set by the Department of Parks and Recreation, which oversees Fairmount Park, per Cofrancisco.
And who enforces them?
The Philadelphia Police Department is supposed to. There’s a whole Truck Enforcement team out to ticket folks who slide their 10,000+ pounds onto Kelly Drive’s pavement.
What happens if I do it anyway?
If you’re cool with risking contact with the stone bridges, you’ve still got the $500 financial penalty to worry about.