DOT Safety Regulation Update Fast-Fax™
Week of August 1, 2011
Foley Services Your Single Source for DOT Compliance
Carriers who fail to conduct and document highway-rail crossing safety training may be putting their companies at an unnecessary risk in the event of an accident.
There still aren’t many answers about what caused a truck to plow into a California-bound Amtrak train on a sunny June day in Nevada. However, plaintiffs have been lining up to point blame at the Battle Mountain, Nev., trucking company that employed the deceased driver of the CMV involved in the incident.
Suits and Countersuits
At the end of last week, the 141-driver company filed a countersuit against National Railroad Passenger Corp. The company is arguing that the railroad company did not adequately warn drivers of approaching trains.
In an earlier suit against the trucking company, Amtrak claimed that the employer failed to properly train the driver and was therefore responsible for the driver’s negligent actions. Amtrak has cited $10 million in property damages.
There have also been a number of smaller lawsuits filed by individuals injured in the crash or the families of the deceased. A 38-year-old Amtrak attendant injured in the crash was among the first to file suit claiming negligence by the truck driver and his employer.
A Deadly Incident
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is in the midst of a thorough investigation into the incident, which killed six people and injured more than 20. The final report won’t be out until sometime next year.
A few days after the accident, a board member on the scene reported that the NTSB teams planned to look into what role driver distraction may have played in the accident. They also expected to take a close look at driver toxicology and autopsy reports as well as the driver’s medical history and training and experience. On the vehicle side, the teams initially focused on the big rig’s tires and brakes.
According to initial reports, the truck was leading a three-truck convoy on a stretch of highway with a posted speed limit of 70-miles-per-hour in the moments before it smashed into the rail car. The warning lights were flashing and the crossing gates were down at the time of the impact. Marks at the scene show the truck skidded 320 feet before smashing through the gates and into the train car.
Is It Time for a RR Safety Meeting?
In an effort to stay on top of DOT safety and regulatory trends, the Fast-Fax team spends much more time reading about horrific CMV accidents than we would like. And truck on train accidents are far too common. Just a few weeks after the Nevada Amtrak crash, another CMV driver was killed in a collision with an Amtrak train in Maine. Fortunately, no passengers were injured in that incident.
Talk to any professional driver out there and you’ll find that most have had a close call with a train or know someone who has. Many distribution hubs depend on both highway and rail and we’ve heard far too many drivers admit that they’ve been stopped on the tracks sandwiched between two other trucks waiting to drop off a load. Most drivers, no matter how experienced, could benefit from a refresher course on highway-rail crossing safety.
FMCSA’s Free Safety Guidance
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has developed a handy highway-rail crossing info sheet that carriers may want to review with drivers. The flyer offers practical tips for safely crossing rail tracks and emergency numbers that drivers can call if their vehicle stalls or gets stuck on the tracks. To request a PDF copy of FMCSA’s “7 Steps for Safety” send an email to
Don’t forget to document your company’s safety efforts. Training records are invaluable in the unfortunate event of an accident.
DOT Announces Safety Summit. DOT and FMCSA have been hosting a series of Regional Motorcoach Safety Roundtables. The sessions, which are open to the public, will serve as teasers for a National Motorcoach Safety Summit scheduled for September 23 in Washington, D.C.
The roundtables and summit are part of an on-going campaign to improve motorcoach safety in the United States. Over the last several months, the DOT has been handing out unsatisfactory ratings and removing unsafe carriers and drivers from the road. The motorcoach meetings are expected to increase awareness about motorcoach safety issues and result in programs and solutions to improve passenger carrier safety.
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Editor: Roxanne Swidrak, Vice President, Operations • 1-800-253-5506 • www.FoleyServices.com • Vol. 111, No. 698 • © Foley Carrier Services, LLC. 2011