In July of this year, a driver transporting Castrol lubricants was involved in a serious accident when his vehicle was hit by a slow moving train as he was crossing a set of railroad tracks while leaving a terminal. Fortunately no one was injured; however this accident had the potential to result in severe injuries or fatalities.
The accident happened as the driver was leaving the terminal after being loaded with 6,500 gallons of base oil. A slow-moving train hit the tanker and pushed the tractor and tanker over. It was pushed on its side across the width of the roadway until the back of the tanker hit a parked train on a second set of tracks. The impact crushed and bent the tanker between the two trains and then the slow moving train came to a stop. As previously stated, no one was injured, but the truck and tanker were severely damaged and a large spill occurred. The truck driver was cited for failure to yield the right of way to a train.
A standard line haul unit with a 53-foot trailer and weighing 80,000 pounds traveling on a level road under good surface conditions requires a minimum of 14 seconds to clear a single set of railroad tracks.
In the same way that airplanes can seem to move slowly, your eyes can play a trick on you when a train is approaching – an optical illusion that makes a train seem farther away and moving more slowly than it really is. Don’t take chances – it’s easy to misjudge a train’s speed and its distance, especially at night. If you see a train, just wait.
Per the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there are over 250,000 railroad crossings in the U.S. Although the highway safety picture has improved considerably over the last decade, 300 – 400 people are killed every year and more than 1,100 are injured at crossings. Of the more than 3,000 highway railroad-crossing incidents annually, 700 involve trucks or tractor-trailers. That’s an average of more than 13 accidents per week.
A Commercial Driver’s License Manual lists the following safe driving procedures for use at railroad crossings:
The FMCSA website provides a compendium of highway railroad crossing safety information for drivers, motor carriers, and users of commercial motor vehicles.