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Incidents involving trucks vs Metrolink trains are on an alarming increase

  Metrolink : Friday February 4, 2000
Five Train vs. Tractor-Trailer Incidents in the Last 90 Days

Concerned about the alarming increase in the number of collisions between trucks vs. Metrolink trains, Metrolink officials today issued an alert to trucking companies to have their drivers be extra-vigilant and always expect a train when approaching railroad tracks.

There have been five separate train vs. tractor-trailer incidents involving Metrolink trains in the last three months throughout the Southland, a significant increase from the prior 24 months when there was only one such incident throughout an almost two year period.

While there have been only minor injuries in each of the five incidents, Metrolink officials are worried about the growing trend. Over the last seven years a total of 17 truck vs. Metrolink train incidents have occurred. Fourteen of the incidents have occurred in Los Angeles County, most of them in the San Fernando Valley.

There is more and more truck traffic on our streets today, said Metrolink CEO David Solow. The booming economy has brought with it an increase in freight carrier commerce, and that has meant a steady influx of additional truck drivers who may not be familiar with Metrolink’s level of train operations. We have been working with the trucking industry to help bring new truckers up to speed on some of the hazards around railroad tracks and how to avoid them.

The most recent incident occurred at the intersection of Grandview Ave. and San Fernando Rd. in Glendale on Jan. 28 when a tractor-trailer rig hauling an oversized oil refinery processor got stuck on the tracks and was hit by a Metrolink train. Metal debris was scattered for a block and several wheels on the train were derailed.

Metrolink safety officials are focusing attention on reaching out to the trucking industry, but because there are many out-of-state vehicles, it is a challenge, according to Sgt. Corky Jackson of the Metrolink/L.A. County Sheriff’s Unit.

To date, we have focused our outreach toward businesses very near railroad tracks that may have trucks delivering goods from out-of-state, says Jackson. We try to work with the businesses and freight carriers to let them know what safety precautions these trucks should take since often the companies are not aware of our particular commuter rail routes.

Sgt. Jackson says that Metrolink plans to deploy additional personnel in the coming months to make presentations to trucking companies and meet with drivers. In 1999 a total of 2,815 professional drivers from throughout Southern California heard presentations by rail volunteers on railroad safety, according to the non-profit rail education group California Operation Lifesaver, Inc. For now, Jackson says the best advice for truckers is to drive defensively and always expect a train when approaching the tracks.

Cost of incidents takes toll
Metrolink’s first concern whenever an incident occurs is for the safety of the passengers from injuries or fatalities, but even incidents with no serious injuries are costly. Metrolink Director of Equipment Bill Lydon says that the moment an incident happens, it triggers a whole series of costs. He estimates the damage from the recent Glendale incident at $750 thousand, but says there are often uncovered expenses such as securing bus transportation for stranded passengers, labor and repair costs, and the cost of special equipment that may have to be leased.

The cost of an incident depends on the extent of the damage, says Lydon. Costs associated with the recent truck incidents are becoming astronomical. In addition, if a Metrolink rail car has to be kept out of service for any length of time, it reduces the number of available cars for growing passenger demand. This also puts more miles on the rest of the fleet.

Metrolink passenger cars and locomotives have withstood significant impacts over the years and due to the integrity of its construction the equipment holds up very well, according to Lydon. Officials assert that the Metrolink equipment is safe as demonstrated by its performance in prior collisions.

Metrolink Rail Safety Week March 6 - 10
Metrolink plans to host a Trucker on the Train day as part of Metrolink Rail Safety Week when truckers can ride along with Metrolink engineers and see for themselves how to avoid becoming involved in a collision. Along the way, law enforcement officials will be citing violators who trespass on the tracks or go around flashing red lights and gates that are down.

Metrolink has also partnered with California Operation Lifesaver, a statewide non-profit rail safety organization, to help with its safety outreach efforts. Centered on the three E’s education, enforcement and engineering the program has been credited with helping cut national highway-rail incidents in half over the past 28 years.

If trucking companies or any professional driver organization wishes a rail safety presentation, please call the Metrolink Rail Safety Training Office at (213) 452-0239.

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This file last updated: Friday, 04-Feb-2000 19:55:25 EST
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