Railroad Crossing Safety Tips

Railroad crossings can be dangerous for any driver, but they are particularly hazardous for commercial truck drivers.

Railroad-highway grade crossings are points in which a roadway and train tracks intersect. There are different types of grade crossings which may or may not contain different warning signs or devices such as pavement markings or signage.

train crossing railroad tracks

Neither a tractor-trailer nor a train are known for quick starts and stops, and that’s important to keep in mind when approaching a railroad crossing in a commercial vehicle. For example, if a tractor trailer comes to a complete stop at a railroad crossing it takes an average of twenty seven seconds to cross the tracks entirely. A train traveling at 40mph will cover 660 feet, which is the average distance a driver can physically see up or down the tracks, in eleven seconds—less than half the time it will take the tractor-trailer to safely cross.

The EPA estimates that 90% of all tractor-trailers on the road reach a loaded combination weight of less than 73,000 pounds. To provide some perspective, the average loaded train weighs twelve million pounds and when traveling at a rate of 50mph will take roughly one mile to bring to a complete stop. To put it simply, the laws of physics do not favor the tractor-trailer in these situations.

Remember these tips when dealing with railroad crossings:

  • “Any time is train time.” Trains don’t run on regular schedules, and not all crossings contain flashing lights or crossbucks. Assume a train is coming.
  • Always recognize and obey any warning devices, whistles, gates, or any other device meant to notify you of an incoming train.
  • Use your ears! Roll the windows down, turn off the radio or A/C, and listen for bells, whistles, or movement down the tracks.
  • Do not shift while crossing the tracks. Try to cross in the highest gear possible and if you need to downshift, do so before you reach the crossing.
  • The train is always closer and moving more quickly than you realize. Do not attempt to beat a train through the intersection.


For more safe driving tips, visit transforce.com/blog.