Contributing author Joey Slaughter is the owner of Blue Ridge Transport, LLC. A Ringgold, VA based carrier. Joey started his company in 2010 after serving time as an unhappy employee with a local trucking company. The time spent there was not fun but, in hindsight, was a turning point that propelled Joey into the wonderful world of being an entrepreneur. Please visit JoeySlaughter.net for more insightful blogging.
Despite all the training professional drivers and the motoring public receive, train and vehicle crashes happen all the time. According to Operation Lifesaver, a rail safety organization headquartered in Alexandria, VA, a person or a vehicle is hit by a train every three hours. As professional drivers, we must never get complacent regarding the routine crossing of railroad tracks. Yes, it seems simple, but truck/train crashes happen all the time. Check out this link to free formal training for professional drivers on railroad crossing safety.
As a former gasoline tanker driver for 12 years, I became an expert on railroad crossings as I had to stop at all of them, regardless of being guarded or not. Not all truck/train crashes end with the truck losing. I remember a crash near the tank farm where I loaded in North Carolina where the train hit a gas tanker and it exploded thus killing the railroad engineer. All lowboys, RGN’s (removable goose necks), step decks and car hauler trailers have between 6” and 12” of clearance between the bottom of trailer and the ground. This can be extremely dangerous when crossing tracks. Most crossings where the grade is not sufficient for low vehicles to cross have signs indicating such. If you operate one of the aforementioned trailers, NEVER try to cross there. If you can’t turn on a side street to avoid that crossing, you must STOP and call the police for help. No matter what kind of traffic snarl you create by doing this, it will be a thousand times better than you getting hung up on the tracks and an Amtrak is heading your way at 50 mph.
Tracks near intersections create a very dangerous situation. Never stop on a track and never change gears on a track in case you get hung up in the gearbox and stall. It seems like common sense, but just about a year and a half ago, four people were killed in a truck/train crash in a Veteran’s Day parade in Midland, TX. The crossing arms were working properly. It seems the parade had slowed and the driver was waiting for the vehicle in front to move forward, but he never should have stopped on the tracks.
We are taught to handle guns as if they’re all loaded. I submit that we should treat all railroad tracks in the same manner, as if there is a train nearby, moving your way. Stay safe.