Heartland Flyer Versus Car Carrier

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Cal

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The Heartland Flyer, Amtrak #822, collided with a car carrier that appears to have been stuck on the tracks last night. Four passengers were reported injured but said to minor. The incident was caught on camera: Amtrak Train Collides With Semi Car Hauler in Oklahoma.
Holy cow that's an impact. Glad everyone's safe.

There is a rule that engineers cannot press the emergency break until they've hit it, right? I think I heard it somewhere, but I want to confirm.
 

me_little_me

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I wonder if the driver called 911. That should have been the first thing after getting clear of his vehicle. If he was trying to get the vehicle off the track without calling the police before the bell started, he is negligent. Some drivers may sit on the track for minutes trying to get their vehicle off before calling for help instead of calling first. The quicker the call, the more chance a train can be stopped.
 
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zephyr17

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I wonder if the driver called 911. That should have been the first thing after getting clear of his vehicle. If he was trying to get the vehicle off the track without calling the police before the bell started, he is negligent. Some drivers may sit on the track for minutes trying to get their vehicle off before calling for help instead of calling first. The quicker the call, the more chance a train can be stopped.
First thing should have been to call the dispatcher using the emergency number that is on all grade crossing signal boxes.

911 isn't reliable for getting to dispatchers and adds time even when it they can. Only dispatchers have the ability to contact trains to get them stopped. The emergency number on the signal box is a direct line, and the signal box also has a grade crossing identifier so the dispatcher can identify the location immediately.

Agree he should have gotten clear and called somebody, the dispatcher emergency line or 911 and not fooled around with his truck.
 
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me_little_me

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First thing should have been to call the dispatcher using the emergency number that is on all grade crossing signal boxes.

911 isn't reliable for getting to dispatchers and adds time even when it they can. Only dispatchers have the ability to contact trains to get them stopped. The emergency number on the signal box is a direct line, and the signal box also has a grade crossing identifier so the dispatcher can identify the location immediately.
Except, I'll bet,90% of people stuck on a crossing either do not know that those numbers are there or totally forget them in their urgency. At least calling 911 gets something started and, hopefully, the dispatcher tells them to get the crossing location number so the dispatcher can call it in as the they should have the phone number handy. In fact, hopefully, their 911 system displays that location number on their screen.
 

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As soon as a vehicle becomes stalled on the tracks a call should be made to the dispatcher. In addition the driver should grab some flares or reflectors to place further down the tracks and around bends. Commercial vehicles should be required to walk low and heavy hardware across active tracks to prevent getting stuck in the first place.

There is a rule that engineers cannot press the emergency break until they've hit it, right? I think I heard it somewhere, but I want to confirm.
What would be the point of such a rule? Delayed breaking risks further injury or death and a rule dissuading employees from saving their own lives would be refused by the union. According to what I was told in general terms the goal is to accurately identify a serious threat, initiate emergency breaking, and brace for impact before collision.
 
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Cal

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What would be the point of such a rule? Delayed breaking risks further injury or death and a rule dissuading employees from saving their own lives would be refused by the union. According to what I was told in general terms the goal is to accurately identify a serious threat, initiate emergency breaking, and brace for impact before collision.
Which is why I was quite confused when I first heard it somewhere, made no sense to me.
 

ehbowen

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He was hung up. The roadway rises abruptly to cross the tracks at grade, and his trailer had low clearance. His power tires probably had little contact with the ground, and he couldn't pull himself off the tracks.

That's a reason to immediately call 911.
 

drdumont

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As soon as a vehicle becomes stalled on the tracks a call should be made to the dispatcher. In addition the driver should grab some flares or reflectors to place further down the tracks and around bends. Commercial vehicles should be required to walk low and heavy hardware across active tracks to prevent getting stuck in the first place.


What would be the point of such a rule? Delayed breaking risks further injury or death and a rule dissuading employees from saving their own lives would be refused by the union. According to what I was told in general terms the goal is to accurately identify a serious threat, initiate emergency breaking, and brace for impact before collision.
BRAKING. You can BREAK a train using the BRAKES.

"Bigholing" a train, or performing an emergency stop means dumping the train brake line, which immediately sets all brakes to maximum stopping power. Power is also removed from the driving axles on the engine. Yes, it is to be avoided when at all possible due to safety issues with passengers and cargo, wheel and track damage, and sometimes long delays in getting rolling again after the incident. Ever hear a train go by with a thump thump thump noise from an axle? At least one of those axles has been slid along the rail, flat spotting it. The practice is, of course, used only to attempt to avoid an emergency, and discouraged otherwise.

However, comma, when the Engineer perceives the danger of a collision, he bigholes it at once. (If a brake air line fails, the train immediately goes into emergency stop). Alas, due to the inertia and the energy of the cars rolling at speed, coupled with the rather small frictional component of the small contact area between wheel and rails, it can take what seems like forever to bring the train to a halt, even the relatively short consist of passenger trains, as compared to freight trains.

Even though today I drive an EV, I always carry a set of jumper cables of at least 6 foot length. This dates from my years of driving lower than average ground clearance TV Mobile Units. Had I ever high centered a unit, the first thing I would have done would have been to shunt across the rails with the jumper cables. This will set that block's signals to red "DO NOT PASS THIS SIGNAL", and set the blocks either side of that block to yellow, "PROCEED AT NO MORE THAN MEDIUM SPEED, PREPARED TO STOP AT THE NEXT SIGNAL". It also alerts the dispatcher that something is amiss.

Then run 90 degrees from the site while calling either the number posted on the signal or 911. If you see a train coming, then run opposite the way the train is coming. You don't want to be downstream of the collision.

Unfortunately, If a train is already in that block, it's too late. But it couldn't hoit, as it were. The railroads do not publicize this, they have enough issues with vandalism as it is.
 
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Just-Thinking-51

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A better idea would not to attempt driving over that crossing. Call the railroad or local 911 after the fact is not as good as not trying to go over the crossing first. Driving a lowboy, car carrier, double drop trailer or oversized loads, have special requirements such as looking for these hazards. Stopping before you get hung up. Once your stuck the average trailer does not have any way to adjust itself off the grade crossing. Your stuck waiting for tow truck. Airbag suspension on a trailer can be adjusted manually but it does not help much and takes time to do so. Yes better maintenance of the grade crossing would be nice, but there the problem of who pays for it. Got to have the space to feather out the approaching roads. Railroad practices of adding ballast which increase the tracks overall height ever few years does not help. Yes they can undercut but that a money thing, that they the railroad feel they are not responsible to do.
 

GaSteve

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A better idea would not to attempt driving over that crossing. Call the railroad or local 911 after the fact is not as good as not trying to go over the crossing first. Driving a lowboy, car carrier, double drop trailer or oversized loads, have special requirements such as looking for these hazards. Stopping before you get hung up. Once your stuck the average trailer does not have any way to adjust itself off the grade crossing. Your stuck waiting for tow truck. Airbag suspension on a trailer can be adjusted manually but it does not help much and takes time to do so. Yes better maintenance of the grade crossing would be nice, but there the problem of who pays for it. Got to have the space to feather out the approaching roads. Railroad practices of adding ballast which increase the tracks overall height ever few years does not help. Yes they can undercut but that a money thing, that they the railroad feel they are not responsible to do.
Agree. The driver was incompetent for not realizing that he would not get across the hump. Many times these humped crossings are marked, but I didn't see anything that looked like a sign in the video.
 

drdumont

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A better idea would not to attempt driving over that crossing. Call the railroad or local 911 after the fact is not as good as not trying to go over the crossing first. Driving a lowboy, car carrier, double drop trailer or oversized loads, have special requirements such as looking for these hazards. Stopping before you get hung up. Once your stuck the average trailer does not have any way to adjust itself off the grade crossing. Your stuck waiting for tow truck. Airbag suspension on a trailer can be adjusted manually but it does not help much and takes time to do so. Yes better maintenance of the grade crossing would be nice, but there the problem of who pays for it. Got to have the space to feather out the approaching roads. Railroad practices of adding ballast which increase the tracks overall height ever few years does not help. Yes they can undercut but that a money thing, that they the railroad feel they are not responsible to do.
Your first sentence is, of course, spot on. And indeed, really low clearance trucks such as floats, lowboys, heavy haulers and the rest should check the route beforehand. I had 6-8" of ground clearance as the norm and could overinflate the airbags if necessary. But I always checked my route beforehand, especially when going in to small college towns and the like. Also checked for overhead clearances, as I was 13'2". As a result, I never high centered nor gave my Precious Beloved Mobile Unit a haircut.

However, signs can lie, conditions can change, and it never hurts to check.

Unfortunately, not all carriers and drivers use their heads. Looking at the rise in the roadway from the camera's position, I posit that a prudent driver would have approached at very low speed, prepared to reverse as soon as he heard that horrible crunch, or felt resistance. I presume he did not.
 

Just-Thinking-51

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Unfortunately, not all carriers and drivers use their heads. Looking at the rise in the roadway from the camera's position, I posit that a prudent driver would have approached at very low speed, prepared to reverse as soon as he heard that horrible crunch, or felt resistance. I presume he did not.
Or just the opposite he saw and hit the throttle hoping to ram it across.

It amazingly how many fuel island entrance and exit have deep groves made by car carriers scrap there equipment on the ground. It does not take much of a bump for a car carrier to hit the surface.
 

HammerJack

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Wonder why the engineer wasn’t on the horn for the crossing.... it doesn’t appear to be a private crossing, nor in an area where you’d expect a quiet zone.
 

me_little_me

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Agree. The driver was incompetent for not realizing that he would not get across the hump. Many times these humped crossings are marked, but I didn't see anything that looked like a sign in the video.
That was the first thing I noticed - the size of the rise in the road as it reached the tracks. One would think the road would be better graded; the driver would see he had a problem; and/or there would be a prominent sign to drivers about low undercarriage clearance.

Then I remember all those videos at that one low bridge in NC that has multiple signs and lights yet truck drivers that still decide that they don't need a brain to drive as the top of their cargo gets sliced off. We have yet to cure the common cold or human stupidity (as the pandemic has proven).
 
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