It has been reported that the 127-ton tractor-trailer that derailed an Amtrak train at a railroad crossing in North Carolina last month was about three times the size and weight of a standard 18-wheeler. The reports indicate it was so big that it required a Highway Patrol escort. The height required it to take back roads around some Interstate overpasses. Authorities say the truck driver involved in the crash on March 9 that injured 55 people was struggling to negotiate a tight left-hand turn across the tracks from one two-lane highway to another with this enormous load when the passenger train came roaring around a curve in the tiny community of Halifax, N.C.
A special state permit enabled the transport company to exceed length and weight limits as it hauled the electrical distribution facility made by PCX Corp. to New Jersey. The tractor and trailer was 164 feet long and had 13 axles to support the combined weight of 255,000 pounds. A standard 18-wheeler has five axles and the top weight is 80,000 pounds.
According to an eyewitness, the driver of the truck was moving back and forth over the tracks trying to make the turn for about eight minutes before impact. Reportedly, between 30 and 35 passenger and freight trains use this stretch of CSX railroad daily. It doesn’t appear that CSX or Amtrak was warned of the driver’s difficulties at the crossing prior to the incident.
Steve Ditmeyer, a former Federal Railroad Administration official who teaches railway management at Michigan State University, says that well-established protocols require truck drivers and their trooper escorts to “clear their routes and inform the railroad dispatchers what they’re doing.” And he added that even if they lose contact, a toll-free emergency number is prominently displayed at each crossing. A dispatcher would have immediately put up a red signal for Amtrak and radioed Amtrak to stop, according to Ditmeyer. In this case, based on all reports, the train engineer didn’t know about the truck until he was coming around a curve. Ditmeyer says that the engineer “had no long vision.”
It was reported that the trooper on the scene didn’t have adequate time in which to alert the railroad. The trooper was said to have had only 25 seconds or so to react after the approaching New York-bound train set off warning lights and the crossing arms came down. Unfortunately, he simply didn’t have a chance to give any warnings to the railroad.
Fortunately, most of the 212 passengers on the train weren’t seriously injured. Most of them were treated at hospitals and released by the next day. This incident could have been a disaster. The Federal Railroad Administration’s database shows at least five previous collisions at the same crossing, all involving vehicles on the tracks. The most recent was in 2005, when a freight train hit a truck’s “utility trailer.” In 1977, an Amtrak train hit a car at 70 mph. The driver got out in time, but a railroad employee was injured, that accident report said.
This collision was the third serious train crash in less than two months. Crashes in New York and California in February killed a total of seven people and injured 30. The Federal Railroad Administration is interviewing witnesses and reviewing onboard recorders as part of its investigation.
Source: Insurance Journal
Contact us today for a free legal consultation with an experienced attorney.
Fields marked *may be required for submission.
If you would like to subscribe to the Jere Beasley Report digital edition, simply visit our Subscriptions page and provide the necessary information or call us at 800-898-2034.
Attorney Advertising - Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.