Target trucks to increase level crossing safety: ITSR

Safety regulator says efforts to increase rail level crossing safety should target the trucking industry

August 25, 2011

The NSW Independent Transport Safety Regulator says efforts to improve safety at rail level crossings should target the trucking industry, after a report levelled most of the blame on the sector for incidents.

Analysis undertaken by the ITSR found heavy vehicles are responsible for about 23 percent of rail-related accidents and 30 percent of fatalities despite making up only 2.5 percent of registered road vehicles.

The findings stem from data gathered by rail regulators, road crash data collected by road authorities and inventory data from rail infrastructure managers over 10 years from 2000 to 2009.

While the report shows the rate of collisions is falling – decreasing from 85 per annum to 54 – the number of deaths remains at about 10 fatalities annually.

"The potential for multiple fatalities makes collisions between road vehicles and trains at level crossings one of the biggest safety risks for rail operations in Australia," ITSR CEO Len Neist says

"There have been too many examples over the years of just how catastrophic a collision between a heavy vehicle and a train can be. Efforts to improve safety at level crossings must now focus on heavy vehicles to mitigate this very real risk to the travelling public."

Neist says train employees and passengers make up the bulk of fatalities from collisions. He says the trucking and rail industries must make every effort to reduce collision risks.

"Technology offers some real solutions with positive safety outcomes. Many rail operators and road authorities are actively looking at methods, such as ‘radio break-in’ to warn motorists of an oncoming train via their vehicle radio as they approach a level crossing," he says.

Neist has backed the Federal Government’s decision to upgrade high-risk level crossings with boom gates and flashing lights, saying it has been effective in improving says.

"The data shows that crossings with booms are the most effective in preventing level crossing collisions and this is the direction that state and federal upgrade programs must head," he says.

"At level crossings with boom gates there have been far fewer fatal accidents. The news is not so positive where flashing lights without boom gates, stop signs or give way signs are installed."

The findings were released as part of National Rail Safety Week, which runs from August 22 to August 28.

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