Driver safety is critical at railroad crossings

Rail transportation is on the rise

Septic service route drivers must be ever vigilant about the dangers of rural rail crossings, where trains may be seldom encountered and warning signs are basic and without flashing lights or crossing bars. Couple passive warning signs with an increase in rail traffic and you have a recipe for disaster.

About a week ago, the Association of American Railroads reported total U.S. weekly volume of rail transport was up 7.2 percent over the same week last year. Railroads have enjoyed a general resurgence in popularity for transporting goods and raw materials. As the economy improves, you can expect that trend to continue. And rail shipments of frac sand and other raw materials associated with a burgeoning gas and oil industry advances are having an impact as well.

If you work in areas with a lot of rural rail traffic, consider having a safety meeting to remind drivers to keep a watchful eye at country rail crossings. When you review daily routes, talk about crossings and the potential for meeting trains during the day.

Earlier this week, a western Wisconsin pumper died when his vacuum truck was struck by a Union Pacific train at a rural crossing. Benjamin C. Morgan, 53, of Tri County Sanitation in Hudson, Wis., was headed south on a town road about 11 a.m. Monday when his 1998 Mack vacuum truck was struck by the westbound train. Morgan is listed as owner-operator of Tri County Sanitation at the company’s website.

The crossing is marked with “railroad crossing’’ and “yield’’ signs. Further details have not been released, and the crash remains under investigation, according to the St. Croix County Sheriff’s Office.

This is a terrible tragedy for the family, friends and neighbors of Morgan, and we send our condolences on behalf of the pumping industry.

The Wisconsin crash was the second traffic fatality involving a pumper in a little more than month. Last Dec. 27, pumper Werner Karl Letterman, 41, was killed when a blown tire sent his service truck careening off Interstate 95 near West Palm Beach, Fla., where it hit a tree, rolled over and started on fire.


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