On a spring morning in the Southeastern U.S., a log truck driver was starting to transport his second load of the day. The weather was not a contributing factor to the accident as conditions were clear and dry.
The driver had only been on the job for 17 months; however, he did have previous truck driving experience. He was familiar with the route from the woods to the mill since the logging crew had been operating on this tract for some time.
The driver proceeded with caution upon approaching a set of unguarded railroad tracks that crossed the road. After crossing the tracks, the driver traveled about one mile before approaching a second set of unguarded tracks. The truck was traveling about 45 mph, which was the posted speed limit.
The driver began to become distracted as the glare from the sun started to impact his vision. At the same time his cell phone began to ring. The driver answered the phone call from his boss while using his hands-free device. However, because of the distractions, the driver failed to notice the flashing signal lights at the railroad crossing warning of an oncoming train.
As the driver began to cross the tracks, the locomotive collided with the cab, causing the train to derail. The locomotive was traveling at a low rate of speed, but the collision caused the truck to spill its load of logs, and it was pushed about 60 feet along the tracks.
The owner heard the collision over the phone. After several attempts to contact the driver, he was finally able to connect with him and learn more details about the precise location of the accident.
When the business owner arrived at the accident scene, emergency services personnel had already started transporting the injured truck driver and locomotive engineer to a hospital by ambulance. The truck cab was crushed, but the driver was protected by the heavy-duty headache rack, which prevented logs from penetrating the cab.
The driver was admitted to the hospital and placed in intensive care. He suff-ered four shattered ribs and a liver laceration. He was released from the hospital two days later to recover at home for eight weeks. Drug and alcohol screening was negative.
• The driver failed to yield the right of way to an oncoming train by disregarding the flashing warning signal.
• The driver was operating a moving vehicle while distracted and not paying attention to his surroundings.
• Always be aware of your surroundings and avoid any distractions while driving.
• Use ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode or a similar safety feature on smartphones to eliminate the temptation to answer calls or texts while driving.
• Stop a safe distance away from the tracks at railroad crossings to ensure the tracks are clear of oncoming trains.
(Source: Forest Resources Association)