Simple Solution to Prevent Tractor-Trailer Collisions with Trains Remains Elusive
When an Amtrak train slammed into a tractor-trailer that had become stuck on the train tracks last month, 55 people were injured. Witnesses to the North Carolina crash told federal investigators that the driver of the 127 ton tractor-trailer combination, which was more than half the length of a football field, appeared uncertain about his ability to negotiate a left turn across the tracks. A witness indicated that the truck driver spent 15-20 minutes adjusting the load and moving the rig back and forth before the rail crossing arms were lowered.
In the wake of this tractor-trailer-train collision, the rail industry is requesting five more years to install a high-tech system that can help prevent such crashes at an estimated cost of $9 billion. Ironically, this high-tech solution will still not prevent these types of crashes unless trucking companies or commercial drivers communicate with the railroad prior to the crash, so the train has time to reduce its speed.
Although it might seem that the North Carolina crash was a freak occurrence, these crashes cause more injuries and deaths than one might assume. In the 47 years since the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) first suggested implementing technology to avoid these types of crashes, 144 crashes have killed 300 people and injured 6,500 more. Large trucks cross railroad tracks approximately ten times per week according to federal regulators. When the tractor-trailer is transporting a supersized load, the risk that the truck cannot cross quickly or safely increases substantially. Big-rigs transporting supersize loads were hit twenty times during 2013 and 2014.
It is hardly surprising that neither the rail industry nor the trucking industry is rushing to incur the cost and to assume responsibility for implementing high-tech solutions to prevent these rail crossing accidents. However, a low tech solution could be implemented immediately with virtually no cost. If trucking companies and rail operators communicated prior to their vehicles crossing paths, these accidents might be virtually eliminated.
Currently, there is no federal law or regulation that requires any form of communication between train and truck operators. Further, a third of all states also do not impose any requirement that rail and train operators communicate or coordinate to prevent crashes. Although the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) pass safety regulations, both focus exclusively on their own domain. Because there are no shared regulations that govern where roads meet rails, highway regulators have promoted "best practices" that suggest pilot car drivers contact railroads in advance of a crossing especially if there are concerns about the ability to negotiate the crossing safely.
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If you are injured in a collision involving a train or tractor-trailer, you might be entitled to financial compensation. Our Atlanta accident lawyers at Montlick and Associates have been representing those who suffer serious injuries throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast for over thirty years, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state.
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