The driver of an 18-wheel truck was killed in Temple, an hour south of Fort Worth, as he tried to cross a set of railroad tracks around 11 a.m. Officials say the driver, Randall Collier, 58, of Rogers, was struck by a northbound Amtrack train at a crossing marked with a stop sign, but no warning signal.
Authorities are still investigating, according to KWTX.com. There were 170 passengers on the Amtrack, though no one aboard was reported injured.
Fort Worth truck accident lawyer Coby L. Wooten has experience handling these types of accidents. In serious accidents, an early and thorough investigation is critical. It's important for victims to have their own attorney and accident investigators and reconstructionists at the site as soon as possible. An accident attorney can make sure evidence doesn't change or disappear.
If you are injured or lose a loved one in a commercial vehicle or train accident, you will want an accurate account of what happened and an experience attorney to hold the responsible party accountable.
In the Temple accident, there are two important safety messages here: The importance of truck drivers to remain alert and obey all rules of the road, and the importance of railroad-crossing safety.
The former became an issue in headline news, as comedian Tracy Morgan was critically injured and one of his colleagues killed in a New Jersey crash with a big rig trucker who allegedly hadn't slept in the 24 hours preceding the wreck.
Last year, federal rules slashed the workweek maximum for truckers from 82 hours to 70 hours. Drivers who reach that limit can restart their workweek, but only after a required 34-hour break period, which has to include at least two periods that stretch from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. They also can't drive for more than 11 hours daily, and they need to have a half-hour break in their schedule.
The rules were enacted in response to the fact that about one in seven of the 30,000 people who die on U.S. highways annually are killed in crashes involving big trucks.
Yet a week prior to the Morgan crash, legislators were working to get those nighttime-break regulations off the books, in response to heavy opposition from the trucking industry.
It's not yet clear whether trucker fatigue or distraction played a role in the Temple crash, as authorities continue to piece together what happened.
But that brings us to the second major safety issue highlighted by this crash, which is that of dangerous railroad crossing.
The Federal Railroad Administration reported that between September 2012 and August 2013, there were approximately 7,700 citations issued for railroad safety violations. When fatal accidents occurred, human error was cited 39 percent of the time, while track defects were an issue 31 percent of the time. Equipment failure was an issue in 15 percent of cases and signal problems were cited in 3 percent of crashes.
Operation Lifesaver, a train safety advocacy group, reports someone in the U.S. is struck by a train every 115 minutes, often with deadly results. Some 2,000 people are killed and injured annually at rail grade crossings.
In 2003, there were almost 3,000 crashes reported, resulting in 325 deaths.
The Temple crash is representative of the fact that 25 percent of train/motor vehicle collisions involve commercially-licensed truck and semi-trailer drivers. The Texas Department of Insurance reports that after a large rig stops at a railroad crossing, it takes nearly 30 seconds to cross the tracks going 2 mph. Meanwhile, a train traveling 41 mph (the average) travels 660 feet in 11 seconds. This is about as far up the tracks as the trucker can see, which makes it especially important for truckers to practice safe crossing.
Still, the majority of these wrecks are between trains and smaller motor vehicles. Approximately two-thirds occur during daylight hours. When you consider what a train can do to an 18-wheeler, it should come as no surprise that your 4,000-pound vehicle doesn't stand a chance against a 12-million pound locomotive.
Railroad safety advocates recommend the following action when approaching a railway crossing:
- Never pass another car within 100 feet of a railroad crossing.
- Keep an eye out for vehicles that by law must stop at railroad crossings. These would include school buses or trucks carrying dangerous materials.
- Roll windows down when approaching a crossing and listen for bells or whistles.
- Always yield to whistles, flashing lights, closing gates, stop signs or crossbucks.
Contact Coby L. Wooten, Attorney at Law, regarding Forth Worth personal injury claims, by calling (866) 408-0940.