Vehicle Impact Damage to Drive-Through Porticos

By George Sanford, Warren Forensics

By their very nature, drive-through Porticos, or Porte Cochéres, are susceptible to damage by vehicle impact. That is when the driver of the impacting vehicle is unaware of or forgets about the actual vertical height clearance required for that vehicle. The vans of box trucks, such as delivery or rental vehicles, are particularly prone to cause this sort of impact damage. See the photo herein for the type of drive-through Portico being referred to in this article.

I have been the forensic Engineer-in-Charge of performing structural evaluations of two such impact incidents recently. In both incidents, the van of a box truck struck the Portico’s load-bearing horizontal dropped soffit beam at the entryway. In one incident, it was a rental truck; in the other, it was a commercial delivery van. In both cases, overhead signage specifying the clearance height was present.

In the first incident, the impacted Portico beam was comprised of a hot-rolled, wide-flange steel I-beam. This beam was “furred out” with timber framing and plywood sheathing. The Portico exterior and the steel beam were clad with cementitious hardboard siding, hardboard soffit material, and vented metal soffitting. All of this non-load-bearing, cosmetic material surrounding the steel beam was damaged to the point of requiring like-kind replacement. The steel beam, however, was stout enough that it was not damaged or deflected in any way. It remained structurally sound, with only superficial scratches on the bottom flange present. The van of the truck took the brunt of the damage and sustained some denting. However, it was apparent that the truck was traveling at a low rate of speed and the damage to the van was not severe.

As the reader can see, vehicle impacts on Porticos are a frequent occurrence and can cause a considerable amount of both structural and cosmetic damage. Fortunately, in both cases, the damage was limited to the Portico itself and there was no hidden damage to the interior. These types of accidents can only be avoided by clear, visible signage, and driver awareness of the vertical height clearance required by the approaching vehicle. This can be improved with proper driver education and training. Let us all hope that this kind of loss can be kept to a minimum, or ideally, avoided entirely with proper driver training.  

If you would like more information, please contact George Sanford at (803) 732-6600 or via email at

This is a publication of Southern Loss Association, Inc., P.O. Box 421564, Atlanta, GA 30342. The articles published on this website are in a general format and are not intended to be legal advice applicable to any specific circumstances. Legal opinions may vary when based on subtle factual differences. All rights reserved.