Level crossings require extra care, good judgment
Following a fatal semi-trailer collision with a freight train in Houston earlier this month, drivers are urged to take extra precautions when approaching level crossings.
The accident occurred when a Kansas City Southern train collided with a truck, resulting in the death of the truck driver, the company said in a statement.
The truck caught fire on impact, but the crew on the train was not injured. The incident is under investigation.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said in a Tweeter, “It appears the truck driver was parked on the tracks, in line with other vehicles, waiting for traffic as the train approached.”
Brian Runnels, Trusted partnersVice President of Safety said it is the worst-case scenario for drivers to end up with a duck sitting on the tracks when stuck in traffic.
“I don’t know if the traffic light caught him off guard or something, but drivers should never stop on a railroad track,” Runnels said.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, under 49 CFR 392.10, commercial vehicle drivers must stop within 50 feet but not less than 15 feet from the tracks. Drivers should then look in each direction along the tracks for an approaching train before determining if it is safe to cross, and can only cross with a gear that allows the vehicle to pass the crossing without having to change. of speed.
Cases in which lanes may be crossed without following such protocols include when the lane is marked as abandoned or when an industrial or straight line crossing is marked with an “Exempt” sign erected with the consent of the State. or the appropriate local authority.
Among the other exceptions listed, a stop need not be made when a police officer or flagperson orders traffic to continue or when a level crossing controlled by a functioning road traffic light transmits an indication. green.
Despite the rules, however, truck-train collisions continue to grab the headlines. Most often, this is a lack of judgment on the part of the driver.
A trucker last month in Greeneville, Tennessee, blamed a bush for blocking his view when he made the decision to withdraw in front of a train. No one was injured in the ensuing collision.
In a more serious case, a lack of judgment resulted in a train derailment near Fremont, Nebraska, earlier this month. A dump trailer carrying soil failed to clear tracks in time when he was struck by a Union Pacific train.
No one was injured, but the truck and trailer were considered total losses. The derailed train was to be on track for an “indefinite” length of time until Union Pacific could restart the train, a Dodge County Sheriff’s deputy said at the time.
Recounting his time on the road, veteran Runnels spoke of his experience with the tracks. He said it all comes down to your ability to measure distance. Do you have enough room to clear the way in this traffic without getting stuck?
“Make sure your landing gear is fully extended and pay attention to your surroundings” as you approach crossings, Runnels urged. “If there’s a rise in the concrete, see if it’s all cracked and torn.”
Runnels said the scratches in the pavement are a good indicator the crossing has a history of truck grounding. Many crossings are raised above the roadway, which can cause problems with overhead equipment such as trailer landing gears, posing a risk of snagging on the hill.
The problem isn’t so much that the landing gear is stuck, but that it lifts the vehicle just far enough off the ground that the training tires can’t gain traction, Runnels explained. The situation makes it difficult to move the truck forward or backward.
“Some trailers have an undercarriage that doesn’t go up as high as others,” Runnels said. “I have had landing gears suspended 16-18 inches from the ground, while others were perched barely 10-12 inches from the ground, leaving you without much leeway to pass over something like tracks.”
“Drivers should always wind up the landing gear as much as possible; never leave the landing gear extended.
More from FreightWaves on level crossing safety:
What do the laws say about commercial vehicles crossing the tracks?
The most dangerous level crossings for American truckers
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