Piloting The Highway - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Piloting The Highway

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KENNEWICK, Wash.- Larry J Schuster is a pilot, flying not up in the sky, but up and down the highways. It's reported that a pilot like Schuster was in front of the truck that hit an overhead girder on the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River just before part of the bridge collapsed, throwing vehicles and people into the water.

Pilot cars use what's called a high pole to measure the clearance height of a load before it heads under an obstacle like a bridge.

"The high pole can be adjusted from 15 feet to 19 feet," explained Larry "J" Schuster the owner and driver of Jet Pilot Cars in Kennewick. "If we come in contact with something you'll hear it."

The permit the trucking company secured in the I-5 incident clearly states "the route does not guarantee height clearances." This means it's up to the pilot vehicle to use their pole and make sure their load can clear any obstacles.  

Schuster says incidents like the one over the Skagit River don't shake him enough to look for other work. "It's neat cause you're always going somewhere different…I love it...I love it."

The State Patrol and the Department of Transportation are unwilling to confirm if the pilot car properly cleared the way on the bridge, but they did confirm that the truck hit the bridge.