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Background and fact sheet for the Rail Investigation Report No. R02W0063

Recommendations – Extract from Railway Investigation Report R02W0063 Crossing accident and derailment near Firdale, Manitoba

Action Required – Driver training material

The railway crossbuck sign is the primary defence for vehicles at public passive crossings. There is a common misconception among drivers that crossbuck signs are simply indicating the presence of a crossing, rather than also suggesting the possibility of an approaching train or a train occupying the crossing. This perception is further reinforced by a number of vehicle driver training manuals indicating that a railway crossbuck sign identifies the presence of a railway crossing.

In addition to the railway crossbuck sign, Canadian Rail Operating Rules (CROR) Rule 14 provides a secondary defence to warn the vehicle driver of a train's approach. A train horn is to be sounded at least one-quarter mile from every public grade crossing until the crossing is fully occupied by the train. However, the 1998 National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) train horn audibility study demonstrated that a train horn is virtually inaudible to a heavy truck from distances exceeding 100 feet and, consequently, does not provide a consistently effective defence to warn heavy-truck drivers of an approaching train.

Since the railway crossbuck sign is subject to misinterpretation, and considering that the train horn is an ineffective defence for heavy trucks, the key to public passive crossing safety for heavy trucks resides in driver education and awareness. In the U.S., an NTSB study concluded that the risks associated with passive grade crossings were not adequately addressed in driver education material. The study recommended that this training material be revised to include information on the risks associated with negotiating public passive railway crossings.

Increased awareness of rail crossing safety for professional drivers is a crucial step in minimizing the number of these crossing accidents involving heavy trucks. The TSB is of the opinion that an effort to increase truck driver awareness of the hazards involved at railway crossings could come from Direction 2006. This program, sponsored by Transport Canada (TC) and the Railway Association of Canada, is described as ". . . a partnership between all levels of government, railway companies, public safety organizations, police, unions and community groups whose objective is to reduce grade crossing collisions and trespassing incidents by 50 per cent by the year 2006." As such, Direction 2006 is in an excellent position to involve the regulator, the provinces, and the trucking industry in an educational initiative to reduce accidents between trucks and trains. While Operation Lifesaver, a crossing awareness initiative by the railways and the regulator, has literature pertaining to the issue, it is not clear that the information is getting widespread distribution to professional drivers. Therefore, the Board recommends that:

The Department of Transport, in consultation with the provinces and the trucking industry, review and update, as necessary, educational and training material for drivers with respect to the risks associated with a heavy vehicle negotiating a public passive railway crossing.
TSB Recommendation R04-02

Action Required – Emergency responder training

Railway personnel are not always the first on the scene of a train derailment involving dangerous goods (DG). Consequently, local emergency responders, including medical, police and fire service personnel, many of them volunteers, play a significant role in these responses across Canada, particularly in rural communities. These emergency responders are expected to initiate the critical steps of assessment and perimeter containment based on their knowledge and expertise. In this role, familiarity with rail equipment and the risks associated with the bulk transportation of DG is crucial.

In previous TSB accident investigation reports (R99T0256 and R01M0061), the Board raised the concern that emergency response personnel may not be provided with the training to be fully aware of and prepared for the risks associated with DG being transported by rail through their communities. Emergency first responders continue to place themselves at risk through inappropriate decisions with regard to the rail transportation of DG. The Board is concerned that the lack of consistent training requirements to maintain emergency responder competencies, specific to rail DG accidents, increases the risk for adverse consequences to occur during a response. Therefore, the Board recommends that:

The Department of Transport, in consultation with other federal, provincial, and municipal agencies, implement consistent training requirements that ensure emergency first responders remain competent to respond to rail accidents involving dangerous goods.
TSB Recommendation R04-03

The public report, R02W0063, is also available on this site.