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!