The Importance of Railroad Safety for Large Commercial Vehicle Drivers

Date: February 27, 2024

Caldwell Spence, Senior Risk Control Consultant

Best Practices to Clear the Tracks

Crossing railroad tracks can be extremely dangerous for all motorists, especially for drivers with large commercial vehicles. To ensure the safety of both the driver and others on the road, commercial vehicle operators should take extra caution when crossing railroad tracks. Let's look at the signs and signals, potential hazards, how to approach the tracks and the importance of maintaining a safe distance.

Railroad Crossings Signs and Signals

Drivers of large commercial vehicles must recognize the signs of a railroad crossing so they can adequately prepare to adjust their speed and positioning. Let's review the most common signs and signals.

Railroad Crossing: The most common railroad crossing sign to look for is a white, X-shaped sign that says "Railroad Crossing" in black letters. Commercial vehicle drivers should treat this sign like a stop sign and come to a complete stop, look both ways and listen for an approaching train.

railroad x-min

Advanced Warning: Another type of railroad crossing sign is the advanced warning sign. This is a yellow sign that indicates that a railroad crossing is ahead. The sign may also include the number of tracks and the distance to the crossing. The advanced warning sign is usually placed several hundred feet before the crossing to give drivers time to slow down and prepare to stop if necessary.

railroad yellow-min

Flashing Lights and Gates: Signals such as flashing lights and gates indicate the approach of a train.

railroad with arms and lights-min

Know the Hazards of Your Route

Before taking off, drivers need to know the hazards of their route. This knowledge can help drivers to avoid accidents, stay safe, and protect their cargo. By understanding the hazards, drivers can plan their trips accordingly and allow for extra time to stop for potential trains.

Approaching Railroad Crossings

Once the driver arrives at the railroad tracks, they should always come to a complete stop to look and listen, even when no warning lights or crossing arms are present. If a driver does hear a train coming in the distance, never try to beat the train. Trains often travel faster than they appear.

Keep a Safe Distance

Drivers must ensure the total length of their truck, trailer, and load does not exceed the distance from the highway to the tracks. We've seen an example of this when a log truck driver hauling a load of pine pulpwood to a mill encountered a railroad crossing just before gaining access to the highway he intended to travel. The distance between the tracks and the highway was 56'. Depending on the specific truck, trailer, and load, a loaded log truck can easily have a total length of 50'-60'. With no vehicles in front of him and no train in sight, the driver proceeded to the stop sign ahead. As he was crossing the tracks, the railroad's warning lights began flashing, and the crossing arms deployed. The driver noticed the overhang of his wood extended from the rear of his trailer over the tracks and into the path of the oncoming train. Traffic passing through the intersection ahead prevented the driver from pulling forward and clearing the tracks. The train collided with the protruding wood, damaging the vessel and injuring two engineers on board. As can be seen, keeping a safe distance can help reduce the risk of incidents.

Do your part to make the roads safer for everyone. For more safety recommendations, contact your BITCO Risk Control Consultant. Click the button below to find an agent near you.

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For information purposes only. BITCO's blog content does not address all potential circumstances and is not a substitute for business, safety, or legal consultation.


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