I’ve often said that grade-crossing accidents are all avoidable—every damn one of them! There was another one the other day and it was a bad one. A lot of people hurt, but thankfully no one killed.
Actually, “over-sized” doesn’t adequately describe it. This truck was hauling a huge load—16 feet wide, about the same in height, and 164 feet long. The whole thing—truck and load—weighed 127 tons. That’s more than 250,000 pounds!
Much is being made of the fact that the driver of that huge rig, 43-year-old John Black, has had a number of traffic tickets and owns a criminal record. In this instance, however, none of that appears to be particularly relevant.
But this is: the load was so big and so wide that the entire route had been carefully planned and mapped out in detail ahead of time. There was an escort vehicle driven by another employee from the trucking company and a North Carolina state trooper led the way in a patrol car.
At this particular grade-crossing, the driver apparently spent 15 to 20 minutes trying to maneuver the truck around a curve and across the tracks. In all that time, and despite all the planning, no one—not he, not his co-worker, and not even the cop—thought to call the railroad and let them know that this behemoth was stuck on the tracks.
And here’s the kicker: there is a sign at that crossing with an emergency phone number to call in case this exact situation should occur! A call to that number would have gone right to the CSX dispatcher who would have had ample time to stop the train.
Result: fifty-five people hurt, several seriously; one locomotive wrecked and several rail cars damaged; the truck’s cargo, a multi-million dollar piece of machinery, destroyed; one truck driver and one helper probably unemployed; and one state trooper probably reassigned to the motor pool.
Makes ya wanna cry, doesn’t it!