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Preventable or not: Trucker’s trip ruined by railroad track drama

John Doe was being tailgated and tried to accelerate through a railroad grade crossing, but a descending signal arm mangled one of his mirrors. Was this a preventable accident?

John Doe was being tailgated and tried to accelerate through a railroad grade crossing, but a descending signal arm mangled one of his mirrors. Was this a preventable accident?

At a roadside safety inspection that morning (which earned him a CVSA decal), tractor-trailer driver John Doe had a brief chat with the safety specialist about the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s emphasis on violations under Compliance, Safety, Accountability. Trucking companies now must be on guard for even the smallest infractions, Doe was advised. Good thing he’d rolled into fleet headquarters yesterday for a preventive maintenance check, 10-4?

Suddenly, Doe’s musings were interrupted by the realization that he was fast approaching an intersection controlled by a traffic light. About 60 feet beyond the intersection was a railroad grade crossing with another traffic light plus signal arms and bells to warn of an approaching locomotive. Since both traffic lights were green, Doe proceeded and was a few feet from the tracks when … Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! … Egad! The light at the grade crossing had just turned red, and the gates were descending!

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Preventable or not? Hard braking for deer spells trouble

Preventable or not? Hard braking for deer spells trouble

A trucker in front of John Doe panic-stopped to avoid a deer, so Doe also hit the brakes hard, causing a tied-down drum to break ...

If Doe stood on the brakes, the little car that presumably still was tailgating his rig surely would run smack into his underride guard, 10-4? And what about that phone call from his fleet manager about that hard-brake alert? So Doe reluctantly floored the accelerator and … CRACK! Oh no! A signal arm descended upon, and severely mangled, Doe’s shotgun-side West Coast mirror! Argh!

Since Doe contested the preventable-accident warning letter from his safety director, the National Safety Council’s Accident Review Committee was asked to render a final decision. To Doe’s dismay, NSC ruled against him, noting that it’s better to risk being rear-ended by a Honda Civic than to be sideswiped by a freight train. Doe should have panic-stopped, NSC decided.

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