By Don Winningham, ANMC Safety OfficeJune 13, 2019
ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- Many hazards exist during railway train operations, including human errors, recklessness, mechanical failures, collisions, and wrecks.
Operating rules and safety rules have been formulated over time to mitigate those dangers.
The Federal Rail Administration regulation is the main governing safety document and Technical Manual 4-14.21, U.S. Army Rail Safety, provides authoritative safety information for rail operations conducted by U.S. Army rail operating personnel, both within the United States and at overseas duty stations.
It may seem easy to avoid a collision with a 200-ton locomotive. Yet, a vehicle or pedestrian is hit by a train every three hours in the U.S., according to FRA 2018 statistics.
According to Operation Lifesaver, a national non-profit organization, nearly 2,000 Americans are killed or injured at highway/rail grade crossings each year.
The average train weighs about 400,000 pounds, or 200 tons, so the weight ratio of a train to a car is about 4,000 to one. This compares to the weight ratio of a car to an aluminum can.
A train traveling at 50 mph, pulling 100 cars, takes one mile to stop. So, in a contest between a car and a train, the train always wins.
Trains can be deceptive, too. Because of the size of a freight train, it's moving faster and is closer than you think.
Trains are also quieter than ever, so lower your radio and listen closely as you approach a crossing.
The motorist in a train/motor vehicle collision is 40 times more likely to die than in a collision between two motor vehicles.
There are many simple and life-saving practices to help you avoid a confrontation with a train at a railroad crossing.
• Remember that any time is train time.
• Slow down when approaching a railroad crossing and look both ways, twice.
• Never race a train to cross the tracks.
• Never pass another vehicle within 100 feet of a railroad crossing.
• Watch out for vehicles which must stop at railroad crossings, like school buses or trucks carrying hazardous materials.
• When approaching a crossing, roll down your windows, turn off the radio or air conditioner, and listen for whistles or bells.
• Always yield to flashing lights, whistles, closing gates, cross bucks or stop signs.
• Never shift gears on the railroad crossing, downshift before you reach it.
• If you must stop, keep a distance of 15 to 50 feet from the tracks. Since the tracks are four feet eight and a half inches wide and the train hangs three feet past the rails on each side, be sure to leave enough space between your vehicle and the tracks.
• Teach children that the railroad is never a place to play, walk, run, bike ride or use as a short cut. Don't fish from railroad bridges either.
• Always cross the tracks at the designated railroad crossing or pedestrian crossing.
• Only use the crossing if you can be sure your vehicle is high enough to completely clear the railroad crossing without stopping.
• Don't be fooled by the optical illusion presented by the train. It is always moving faster and is much closer than you think.
Rail safety is for everyone, not just drivers.
Pedestrians who choose to walk or play around railroad tracks are trespassing on private property and could be fined, seriously injured or killed.
The only safe place to cross is at a designated public crossing with either a cross buck, flashing red lights or a gate. If you cross any other place, you are trespassing and can be ticketed or fined. Cross tracks only at designated pedestrian or roadway crossings.
Here at Anniston Army Depot, the rail house and/or the Anniston Munitions Center conductor must be contacted any time it is necessary to work on or over a railroad right-of-way. The ANMC conductor can be reached at Ext. 6715 prior to beginning work.
This notification requirement is absolute. No work will commence until all employees are trained in Roadway Worker Protection specific for the depot and FRA.
Work shall not be performed unless prior notification has been made.
For Department of Transportation/contractual/consultant work which is scheduled well in advance, the Safety Office, ANMC rail engineer/conductor and the DPW rail inspector shall be contacted as early as practicable to participate in developing a project-specific safety plan; and will be part of any pre-construction/pre-work meeting(s) prior to work beginning.