Trux v. Train: Getting Plugged at the RRX

Salt Lake City 1-21-2017

All the Right Moves . . .

The driver was doing everything right. After all, he had crossed these tracks hundreds of times. Not to shake up the freight in the trailers the driver took the tracks carefully and slowly.

The following then happened . . .


Preventable or Not?

Fact 1:

The warning lights and barrier arms failed to deploy. At least not until after the collision occurred.

Fact 2:

Under federal regulations locomotive horns must be sounded for 15-20 seconds before entering all public grade crossings, but not more than one-quarter mile in advance.

Unless they are in a “dead zone” or quiet zone.

There are six types of quiet zones:

  • A Pre-Rule Quiet Zone (Full or Partial) is a quiet zone that was established before October 9, 1996, and in place as of December 18, 2003.
  • An Intermediate Quiet Zone is a quiet zone that was established after October 9, 1996, but before December 18, 2003.
  • New Quiet Zones are those that do not meet the criteria for Pre-Rule or Intermediate Quiet Zones.
  • Partial Quiet Zonesare quiet zones where the horn is silenced for only a portion of the day, typically between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.
  • Full Quiet Zones are zones where the horn is silenced 24 hours per day.


Locomotives may deploy their ‘alerting lights’ or crossing lights before the crossing.

Before this collision at least two headlights on the locomotive at visible.

In view of these facts:

Was this collision preventable or not? Was there anything the driver could have or should have done differently? Why didn’t the truck driver stop?

Up to nine collisions a week occur between trains and commercial motor vehicles.

Thank you for reading this.


RRX: The Most Dangerous Railroad/Highway Grade Crossings

Five people died at this crossing in Evergreen Alabama.

Deadly Crossings: Five people have died at this crossing in Evergreen Alabama. Note the stop sign beyond the tracks . . .

Danger on the Tracks

Trucks and trains do not mix well. Collisions at crossings are never good for the truck or the train. Collisions with a truck hauling hazmat can be outright tragic.

Yet almost everyday a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) collides with a train.

The Federal Rail Administration released a list of the 15 most dangerous crossings, out of the 200,000 crossings it oversees. At each of these crossings, multiple collisions and/or incidents have occurred in recent years.

The biggest issue seems to be a crossing near or at an intersection. A vehicle may have to stop for traffic and become trapped on or partially over the tracks at some of these crossings. A larger vehicle like a truck then becomes hard to miss.

Fatalities and injuries have decreased over the years and now average about 250 killed and about 1,000 injured each year — about a third of the number in the early 1980s. The majority of these crashes occur within 25 miles of a person’s home. Another statistic: a person is 20 times more likely to be killed in a crash with a train than in a collision with another vehicle.

Distracted Driving

In the majority of truck-train crashes I’m familiar with, the truck driver was distracted before the crash: talking on a CB, talking to a child riding along, distracted by work going on in a construction zone, etc.

I have personally road tested thousands of people and based on my observations, over half of drivers do not do traffic checks before or at rail crossings. Perhaps we’ve become accustomed to warning lights and gates doing our driving for us.

Not every crossing has active warning systems in place. Some crossings are even obscured or the signs can be difficult to see. Drivers need to be reminded to look for the tracks. Then look for the train.

Highway-grade crossing are unmarked on private roads, with tragic results.

Quiet Zones are crossings where the routine sounding of the train horn has been eliminated. The horn is only activated by the engineer for safety reasons.

Every Railroad/Highway Grade Crossing should be considered dangerous . . .

Thank you for reading this. Thanks also to the LabelMaster blog DG Digest for pointing out the FRA list.

More . . . Watch out! Highway Grade (RRX) Crossings

John Taratuta is a Risk Engineer (989) 474-9599

Private Roads: Deadly Consequences


On Monday, February 1, 2016 a tractor trailer was traveling on on this private road in Virginia with a driver and a passenger inside when it was struck by a train made up of three engines and 14 cars. The resulting crash left one dead and one seriously injured and the truck in flames. Being a private road, the highway-grade crossing was unmarked.


Judging from the curve in the tracks, it is possible that the driver did not even see the train coming before he was hit, even if he just did a quick glance.

While trains are required to sound warnings at all public crossings, it is possible on this private road no warning was sounded — until it was too late.

All truck drivers should be aware of “quiet zones” at certain public railroad crossings.

A quiet zone is a section of a rail line at least one‐half mile in length that contains one or more consecutive public highway‐rail grade crossings at which locomotive horns are not routinely sounded when trains are approaching the crossings.

In a quiet zone Locomotive horns may still be used in the case of an emergency and/or to comply with Federal reg or certain railroad rules.

At a minimum, each public highway–rail crossing within a quiet zone must be equipped with active warning devices: flashing lights, gates, constant warning time devices (except in rare circumstances) and power out indicators.

On private roads this is not the case. There may not be any indicators to alert the driver to the presence of a train.

The best piece of advice I can recall comes from an engineer at an Operation Lifesaver presentation: Anytime is train time.

Always expect a train may be coming down the tracks. In Michigan and other states, if the line is not being used, the rail company has to tear out the tracks. So anytime you see a set of tracks, there is the possibility of a train, because that rail line will still be active.

Very few private crossings have active traffic control devices and many do not have signs.  FHWA

Most private grade crossings are under the jurisdiction of railroad companies. As such, the private crossings may not be given top priority to be marked.

The safe thing to do when approaching any rail crossing, public or private, is to always be ready to yield right of way to the train. Be ready to safely stop between 50 feet and 15 feet away from the tracks.


Watch out! Highway Grade (RRX) Crossings

highway-grade collision

Open tracks, Hidden Dangers

On Monday, March 9, 2015, in Halifax County, N.C. an oversized tractor-trailer running under permit and special police escort was hit by an Amtrak train. The collision resulted in injuries to many passengers and caused a derailment.


Several commercial vehicles are involved in train collisions on a daily basis.

Monday’s collision was the third serious train crash in less than two months. Crashes in New York and California in February killed a total of seven people and injured 30. —

Police escorts are there to control traffic around the crossing.

Alerting the railroad wasn’t the responsibility of the trooper. (AP)

A permit is permission, not a safety clearance and not a command.

Circumstances can and do change. Permitting authorities can make mistakes in routing. Signage on the route may be incorrect. In negotiating rail crossings Murphy’s Law (things always go wrong at the worst possible moment), applies double. Remember: Anytime is Train Time.


Countermeasures are proven safety measures, actions, or techniques that can be adapted to your specific type of operation for increased safety.

  • Approaching the crossing:
  • Never ignore flashing lights or closing gates.
  • Slow down, look in both directions, and test your brakes.
  • Be certain you don’t see a train. Roll down windows; turn off fans and radios; be sure you can hear warning whistles.
  • If required: stop no closer than 15 feet from the tracks and no farther than 50 feet from the tracks.
  • Beginning to cross:
  • Never enter a crossing unless you have enough space to fully clear the tracks on the other side, including your truck’s overhang.
  • Never shift gears while on tracks.
  • If the gate comes down after you have started across, drive through it even if it means breaking the gate — the gate is designed to break.
  • Check the crossing signals one final time before proceeding.


  • If you get stuck on the tracks:
    • Beware! Trailers with low ground clearance can get stuck on raised crossings. (A train and a low-ground-clearance trailer collide every two weeks!)
    • Immediately call the posted 1-800 number or 911 to alert police about the stalled vehicle and ensure the railroad is contacted.
    • If your truck is hung-up on the tracks, get out and quickly move away from the tracks in the direction of the approaching train.
    • Provide the exact location of the crossing, using the DOT/AAR crossing number, which may be posted on the crossbuck post or signal pole, box, or bungalow, and the name of the road or highway which crosses the tracks.

Metrolink crash

  • Be aware of distractions while approaching the crossing.
  • A tractor-trailer was hit while the driver was talking on the CB;
  • A tractor-trailer was hit while in the middle of a construction zone that spanned both sides of the tracks;
  • Another tractor-trailer driver was talking with his young son.
  • In the fiery picture above, from the February 24, 2015 Metrolink crash, the tractor-trailer driver said he was lost.

49 CFR Part 383.51 contains the standards for driver disqualification, including (d) Disqualification for railroad-highway grade crossing offenses. Table 3 to §383.51 contains a list of the offenses and the periods for which a person who is required to have a CLP or CDL is disqualified, when the driver is operating a CMV at the time of the violation. A commercial driver can lose their CDL from 60 days to up to a year for these rule violations (if not his or her life or limb).


At every railroad-highway crossing a driver needs to look for, anticipate, and yield right of way to an approaching train. Far too many train-truck collisions are occurring, with catastrophic, life-changing consequences. Know your route, have a backup route, and if possible, avoid highway-grade crossings.

Thanks for reading this. Stay safe!