Saturday, November 17, 2012

Midland, Texas

    It’s a laudable undertaking to gather veterans to recognize and appreciate their service, their valor and their sacrifice. It’s unconscionable to have them transported by a careless, unqualified driver who re-inserts them into harm’s way resulting in the unnecessary death of four of these honorable veterans.

    I am a veteran. I am a truck driver. I am a railfan. The railroad crossing rules concerning vehicles carrying passengers or trucks hauling hazardous materials are very explicit and invariable. The truck involved in this tragedy was pulling a flatbed trailer. Flatbed types are rarely used to haul hazardous materials. Flatbed trailers are generally not considered passenger carrying.

    The driver, I assume, was not qualified to haul hazardous materials or transport passengers so he would not have been operationally aware of the inescapable responsibilities regarding the stop within 50 feet of a railroad crossing but no closer than 15 feet to absolutely ensure, crossing gates and warning lights or not, that no railroad traffic would impact a safe crossing and that enough space beyond the crossing was available for the vehicle to completely clear the track area before beginning the crossing.

    A look at a Google map, street view, shows a generally flat area with seeming unlimited visibility in both directions. There are multiple railroad crossings in Midland and railroad locomotives equipped with horns, headlights and oscillating bright lights (ditch lights) are required to sound the horn before every crossing and activate the ditch lights prior to reaching the crossing.

    It is unimaginable that anyone attempting to cross the tracks while paying full attention could not have known of an approaching train. Many railroad crossings have affixed to the warning light poles a stationary sign warning, “Do Not Stop On Tracks”. I’ve always thought how totally unnecessary such a warning is, that logic and good sense would be sufficient. Apparently not. It’s time to reexamine warning protocols for difficult intersections like this one. The next time it might be a school bus!

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