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SAFTEY FIRST / Post date:
1 September 2013

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.


Did You Know?

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.

It’s Closer and Faster Than You Think!

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:


  • Never Race a Train to a Crossing.  It is extremely difficult to judge the speed of an approaching train.
    Reduce Speed.  Speed must be reduced in accordance with your ability to see approaching trains in any direction, and speed must be held to a point which will permit you to stop short of the tracks in case a stop is necessary.
  • Don’t Expect to Hear a Train.  Because of noise inside your vehicle, you cannot expect to hear the train horn until the train is dangerously close to the crossing.
  • Don’t Rely on Signals.  You should not rely solely upon the presence of warning signals, gates, or flagmen to warn of approaching trains. Be especially alert at crossings that do not have gates or flashing red-light signals.
  • Double Tracks Require a Double Check.  Remember that a train on one track may hide a train on the other track.  Look both ways before crossing. After one train has cleared a crossing, be sure no other trains are near before starting across the tracks.
  • Crossing the Tracks.  Railroad crossings with steep approaches can cause your unit to hang up on the tracks. Never permit traffic conditions to trap you in a position where you have to stop on tracks. Be sure you can get all the way across the tracks before you start across.


The FMCSA website provides a compendium of highway railroad crossing safety information for drivers, motor carriers, and users of commercial motor vehicles.