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NTSB Recommends Training and Operating Guidelines Following Train/Truck Collision

The NTSB says that poor training and planning, the lack of recognition of hazards at a grade crossing, and fatigue caused a truck/train accident in California.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that the probable cause of the collision of a Metrolink passenger train and a tractor semitrailer last year was inadequate preparation and route planning, poor coordination of vehicle movement and permitting authorities, and the lack of recognition of the potential hazard at the grade crossing. According to the NTSB, fatigue of both the train engineer and the truck driver was another factor in the crash.

The Jan. 28, 2000, Glendale, Calif., accident, caused six minor injuries and $2 million in damages.

The Safety Board also concluded that had the truck driver received training that emphasized the hazards of railroad grade crossings for oversized/overweight vehicles, he might have recognized the potential hazard and notified the railroad that he was about to traverse the tracks and may have raised the height of the semitrailer before crossing the tracks.

As a result of the accident, the NTSB made recommendations to the Federal Highway Administration, the City of Glendale, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association, and three pilot car associations.

Included were recommendations urging government regulatory agencies and private industry to:

  • Develop a model pilot car driver training program. The training program should address, at a minimum, issues such as: how to conduct route surveys; the maneuvering limitations of heavy-haul vehicles; the effects of fatigue on performance; the need to assess the dangers of rail crossings, particularly for low-clearance vehicles; and the need requirements to notify the railroads before an oversized/overweight vehicle is escorted across a highway/railroad grade crossing.
  • Work with the Federal Highway Administration to develop model oversized/overweight vehicle movement guidelines. The guidelines should address: when pilot cars and police escorts are required; the training, testing, and certification of pilot car operators, police officers, and truck drivers in the movement of oversized/overweight loads; and the use of height poles and traffic controls.
  • Encourage states to adopt the model oversized/overweight vehicle movement guidelines, once developed, and to require that oversized/overweight vehicle movement conform to the guidelines.
  • Notify members of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the National Sheriff's Association of the circumstances of the Glendale accident and encourage them to train their officers to ensure that documentation regarding permits is reviewed and verified; that safety briefings to discuss routing and special conditions, including the hazards associated with moving oversized/overweight vehicles over grade crossings, are conducted; that provisions for handling off-route are in place; and that necessary notification to the railroads is made before an oversized/overweight vehicle is escorted across a highway/rail grade crossing.
  • Notify members of the Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association of the circumstances of the accident and during in-service training for heavy-haul drivers. Highlight the potential hazards associated with moving low-clearance trailers over grade crossings.
  • Install low-clearance highway-railroad crossing signs at the Grandview Avenue crossing and evaluate other crossings to determine whether the signs are warranted and, if so, install them.

An abstract of the accident report is available on the NTSB's Web site at (under "publications"). A copy of the entire report will be available on the Web site in a few weeks. Paper copies of the report, when available, can be purchased from the National Technical Information Service (800) 533-NTIS.

edited by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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