North Carolina’s Can Opener Bridge is Famous for Scalping Trucks

Most bridges in North Carolina have a 15-foot clearance, but the one at the intersection of Gregson and Peabody streets in Durham is over 100 years old, so it has a clearance of 11 feet 8 inches. That’s pretty rare, so many drivers don’t really pay attentions to the warning signs and they become a victim of the famous can opener bridge.

Over the years, Durham’s 11’8″ bridge in damaged well over 100 trucks. It has become such a problem that state authorities went out of their way to mark it as an unusually low clearance bridge, in the hope that most overheight truck drivers would turn back. But the thing is a lot o them don’t pay attention to the signs, and by the time they realize they may not fit, it’s too late. In the end, the state had no choice but to break the piggy bank and lift the old train bridge by 20 centimeters, to avoid accidents, but that doesn’t seem to have done much good, as the can opener recently claimed its 167th victim.

“I think people are just distracted. They don’t expect it, sneaks up on them a little bit,” Jurgen Henn, of the 11feet8 website and YouTube channel, told The 9th Street Journal. “And the location is a little tricky because it’s a two-lane, one-way road between two relatively tall buildings. So the approach is really narrow. If you haven’t been paying attention to the signs, you won’t catch the bridge, and by that time you’re on it.”

Hen is the man responsible for making the can opener bridge an online celebrity of sorts. He has been posting videos of truck accidents there for years, and today the 11foot8 YouTube channel has over 170,000 subscribers, and tens of millions of views. There is just something about watching someone else misfortune that people can’t resist. There’s even a word for it, schadenfreude.


After witnessing dozens of truck accidents from the window of his office overlooking the bridge, Jurgen decided to set up a surveillance camera to capture the crashes on camera. He then started posting them online, and because people seem to enjoy them so much, he create the 11foot8 website and even a souvenir shop where people can buy crash art (mangled pieces of aluminum from the frame of trucks that crashed into the bridge).

For years, authorities stood by as dozens of trucks fell victim to the infamous 11foot8 bridge in Durham. As far as they were concerned, there were plenty of road signs, even light signals, warning overheight truck to turn back. It was their fault if they chose to ignore the signs, or simply weren’t paying attention. Lifting the bridge was simply too costly and complicated of an operation.


But as more trucks hit the steel beam under the train crossing, peeling away its bright yellow paint, the state had no choice but to give in. In 2019, work to raise the clearance by 20 centimeters began, and even though the famous 11foot8 bridge is now 8 inches taller, the old name stuck, and with it the reputation. And for good reason, as it’s still taking the scalp of high trucks on a regular basis.

Three weeks after the 2019 renovation, an Idealease box truck hit the beam and lost a piece of its roof. Others followed over the next few months. The latest victim, the 167th since Jurgen Hen installed his surveillance camera, hit the bridge on May 11th, and had its roof stripped clean off.


The can opener is ever hungry, so if you happen to be driving a truck through Durham and see a sign that reads “Overheight Must Turn”, don’t ignore it, or you can be its next victim.