19 Highly Unusual Truck Spills


Today, two trucks collided on I-95 in Florida, spilling their precious cargo—Busch beer and Frito-Lay chips—all over the highway. (Thankfully, no one was seriously injured, but according to a spokesperson for the Florida Highway Patrol, the goods will be thrown out.) This kind of thing happens from time to time, with everything from beer to bull semen ending up as a roadside attraction. 

1. BEER 

In August 2015, a 23-year-old trucker became distracted by his canine driving companion and lost control of his vehicle, swerving into the center median guardrail on I-75 in Florida. The Bud Light truck tipped onto its side and spilled Natural Light (owned by Anheuser-Busch) beer cans along the road and adjacent grass. The driver and his small pooch walked away without any injuries, while millions of college students said a prayer for their beloved Natty Light.


Just two days after the Natty Light spill, a produce truck dumped 20 tons of pears out onto the highway in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province in China. Villagers in the area acted fast and arrived on the scene with bags to collect the stray fruit. Some loaded up entire cars and trucks, making multiple trips to capitalize on the accident. Although the pears were worth about 80,000 yuan, the owner did not mind the ransack because the produce was too damaged to sell. 


Thirty thousand pounds of frozen Butterball turkeys were on their way to Costco for Thanksgiving 2014 when the truck took an exit too fast and tipped over on a California Bay Area highway. The turkeys were boxed and safe from harm but could no longer be sold in stores due to the accident. Thankfully, the food didn’t go to waste: It was donated to the Alameda County Food Bank in Oakland. 


In 2011, a truck carrying 40,000 pounds of Edy’s Ice Cream took a spill on Interstate 69 in Indiana. The truck was intact after the accident, but when tow trucks were pulling the truck to the shoulder, ice cream containers came pouring out. Thanks to freezing weather conditions, a good chunk of the frozen booty was preserved and loaded onto a different truck. The truck driver sustained only minor injuries and was checked into a local hospital. 


In 2014, a van loaded with live crabs collided with an SUV in China, causing the pincered animals to become strewn about on the street. On top of the dozens of crabs, there was also a single crocodile (no big deal), which was safely netted. People who witnessed the incident immediately scrambled to pick up the little crustaceans and shoved them into bags, bins, and purses. Together, they all gave new meaning to the phrase "street meat."


In the fall of 2011, a truck overturned on I-74 in Illinois, letting loose 20 tons of food, including chocolate cake, doughnuts, cinnamon rolls, and—in a case of "one of these things is not like the others"—bratwursts. It took seven and half hours to clean up the delicious mess, but thankfully no one was seriously injured.


In 2012, a truck carrying 3000 gallons of paint toppled over in a small town in Brazil. The spilled paint mixed together, creating a beautiful pastel swirl of colors on the street. 


A truck wasn't exactly responsible for these spilled pieces, but it did cause a major kerfuffle on the highway. A family cruising on I-79 in West Virginia accidentally dumped their crate of LEGO bricks—which were strapped to the top of the vehicle—and scattered them across the interstate. The 11-year-old owner of the bricks was heartbroken, but many kind-hearted Facebook users offered to donate LEGO pieces and money to replace his collection. LEGO Maniacs sure are generous. 

9. WINE 

When a truck traveling on Highway 132 in California clipped a van and rolled over last year, it unleashed about 48,000 pounds of bottled wine. The truck driver and the riders of the van were taken to the hospital with minor injuries. 

10.  BEES 

For all their virtues, bees aren't the most popular road trip companions—which means most readers will be thankful to have missed this spill. In April 2015, a truck carrying a shipment of honeybees tipped over on a Washington state highway, and millions of the angry insects took to the sky after freeing themselves from the wreck. Beekeepers managed to save some hives, but most had to be killed with foam after attacking innocent bystanders.


In 2007, a truck took a curve too quickly and flipped over on a Colombian highway—and the cocaine that had been lining the walls and roof burst out of its hiding place and all over the pavement. The driver was not hurt, but was definitely arrested. 


An absent-minded truck driver caused a serious traffic jam in 2012 after forgetting to properly close the back of his vehicle. Motorists in Kolobrzeg, Poland were held up as 24 tons of sardines spilled from inside the truck onto the road. The trucker was asked to pay $7500 for clean up as well as a $75 fine.


In 2011, a Greyhound bus in Tennessee alerted the fire department that it lost part of its load—bull semen. Emergency personnel arrived on the scene to find four small propane-sized canisters that gave off a vapor and an unpleasant smell. Learning that the vapor was just dry ice and not something more dangerous, the workers quickly cleared the canisters from the highway. 

14. BACON 

In June 2015, a truck holding 70,000 pounds of bacon stalled on train tracks in Wilmington, Illinois, southwest of Chicago. An Amtrak train then collided with the vehicle, overturning it and revealing its mouth-watering contents. Remarkably, no one was hurt in the accident.


The Taiwanese city of Tainan looked like the set of a slasher movie after a 56-foot sperm whale exploded on its way through town. The whale had beached itself earlier, and was being carted via flatbed truck to a research facility for an autopsy. As the whale lay rotting in the sun, gases began to build up inside its carcass until they detonated in a flood of whale guts. 


In 2004, a wrecked armored truck spilled more than $2 million in coins on the New Jersey Turnpike. In 2005, another truck caught fire and spilled $800,000 in scalding quarters on an Alabama road. And in 2008, a truck carrying more than 3.5 million nickels (worth about $185,000) to the Miami Federal Reserve dumped its load after a violent wreck that killed the passenger.


What do you do when a 200-ton marine engine destined for a San Diego shipyard flips off its flatbed? Get a crane. Actually, get three cranes—and a new road. The massive engine pancaked three parked cars (there was only one occupant among the parked vehicles, who sustained only minor injuries), and even shoved one below the pavement. For a cool description of how engineers retrieved the engine and put it back onto a truck, check out the San Diego Union-Tribune's original article on the crash.


In 2005, a truck carrying 35,000 pounds of explosives rolled over on a Utah highway and (in classic A-Team fashion) blew up moments after the driver and passenger escaped. The blast dug a crater 30 feet deep and 70 feet wide. It also sent concrete road barriers hundreds of feet in the air and twisted nearby railroad tracks like straws. Fortunately, no one was killed in the incident.

19. FISH

In October 2015, a truck carrying hundreds of dead fish emptied its contents onto a road near Kilbarchan, Scotland. The fish were en route to a waste management company, and while an unfortunate incident no doubt, the upside to this spill is that it led to some incredible jokes.

Stephen Richards, // CC BY-SA 2.0
Every London Cabbie Should Know How to Find This Peculiar Coat Hook
5 Great Newport Street, London
5 Great Newport Street, London
Stephen Richards, // CC BY-SA 2.0

At a large intersection near London's Leicester Square, sharp-eyed pedestrians will be able to spot a mysterious coat hook drilled into a building façade near 5 Great Newport Street. According to Atlas Obscura, the hook was placed there for a very specific group of people—traffic cops.

London's first motorists didn't trust traffic lights. The city installed its first red-yellow-green signals at the junction of St. James's Street and Piccadilly only in 1925, and most major intersections still employed Metropolitan Police officers to direct traffic. At the junction of Great Newport Street, Garrick Street, Long Acre, Cranbourn Street, and Upper St. Martins Lane, cars and carriages depended on a bobby to tell them when to go ahead.

At the time, police officers wore woolen uniforms with capes, even in the hottest months of summer. One of the traffic cops at the intersection, whose name is not recorded, noticed a nail protruding from a construction site near 5 Great Newport Street and hung his cape on it. His fellow officers followed suit as temperatures climbed. When the construction work ended sometime in the 1930s and the nail was removed, the officers petitioned the building's owners to install a permanent fixture.

Today, the ornate iron hook remains drilled into the wall, along with a metal plate reading "Metropolitan Police." It's unclear whether those who are not police officers can drape their jackets on it.

The unique piece of street furniture has outlived the need for traffic-directing bobbies, but it remains a beloved part of London's transportation history. Allegedly, the hook is one of the 20,000 points of interest to be memorized for The Knowledge, the infamously difficult test one must pass to become a London cab driver.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

ANTTI T. NISSINEN, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Big Questions
Why Does Japan Have Blue Traffic Lights Instead of Green?
ANTTI T. NISSINEN, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
ANTTI T. NISSINEN, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In Japan, a game of Red Light, Green Light might be more like Red Light, Blue Light. Because of a linguistic quirk of Japanese, some of the country’s street lights feature "go" signals that are distinctly more blue than green, as Atlas Obscura alerts us, making the country an outlier in international road design.

Different languages refer to colors very differently. For instance, some languages, like Russian and Japanese, have different words for light blue and dark blue, treating them as two distinct colors. And some languages lump colors English speakers see as distinct together under the same umbrella, using the same word for green and blue, for instance. Again, Japanese is one of those languages. While there are now separate terms for blue and green, in Old Japanese, the word ao was used for both colors—what English-speaking scholars label grue.

In modern Japanese, ao refers to blue, while the word midori means green, but you can see the overlap culturally, including at traffic intersections. Officially, the “go” color in traffic lights is called ao, even though traffic lights used to be a regular green, Reader’s Digest says. This posed a linguistic conundrum: How can bureaucrats call the lights ao in official literature if they're really midori?

Since it was written in 1968, dozens of countries around the world have signed the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals, an international treaty aimed at standardizing traffic signals. Japan hasn’t signed (neither has the U.S.), but the country has nevertheless moved toward more internationalized signals.

They ended up splitting the difference between international law and linguists' outcry. Since 1973, the Japanese government has decreed that traffic lights should be green—but that they be the bluest shade of green. They can still qualify as ao, but they're also green enough to mean go to foreigners. But, as Atlas Obscura points out, when drivers take their licensing test, they have to go through a vision test that includes the ability to distinguish between red, yellow, and blue—not green.

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