Many Wrecks Between Trucks and Trains Occur on Grade Crossings

Virginia and North Carolina have numerous railroad crossings. Although we often assume crossings have warning signs, gates and flashing lights, this is not always the case. I have seen some frighteningly inadequate crossings in cities such as Portsmouth and Norfolk as well as in rural areas.

Many of the high-profile train wrecks that have occurred in recent years have been on grade crossings. When a train hits a car, it’s an uneven scenario and the car is usually mangled. When a train hits a big rig, it often leads to derailments and even passenger injuries and deaths.

By law, you are legally required to yield the right-of-way to passing trains.  Truckers have not always complied and, on occasions, a railroad may also share culpability if visibility is poor at a crossing or the train doesn’t sound a horn.

In 2011, an Amtrak train crashed into a truck on a grade crossing in Nevada causing the loss of six lives, including that of the trucker.

Amtrak was subsequently awarded $4.7 million by a jury against John Davis Trucking Co.  The truck was found to have numerous problems with its brakes and the driver was inattentive.  He was trying to cross the tracks despite flashing lights and several warning whistles from the train.

A similar incident took place on March 9, 2015, in North Carolina when an oversized tractor-trailer failed to comply with crossing regulations set by the Department of Transportation. Weighing around 127 tons and measuring roughly 164 feet long, the tractor-trailer was roughly three times larger than a standard eighteen-wheeler. As it tried to cross the railroad tracks, the tractor trailer got stuck. An Amtrak passenger train going at 69 mph struck the stranded tractor trailer.  

Many passengers were severely injured and dozens were hospitalized. Fortunately, no fatalities were reported.

The Department of Transportation has guidelines on how to cross the railroad with an oversized load. The tractor-trailer failed to follow several safety prerequisites. A load that large requires special patrol escorting during transport, needs to clear the route it’s traveling through, and must contact the local railroad services warning them of the crossing. There was clearly a breakdown in communications before this crash.

Trucking cases usually require considerable work and may cross state lines. At Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers, we have decades of experience in these complex cases. Please contact us at (757) 455-0077 if you or a loved one has been injured in a wreck caused by a trucker or if you have been hurt on a substandard grade crossing.


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