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.

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.