Industry Safety, Rail industry news (Australia, New Zealand), Safety

Australian Truck Association calls for better train lighting

Lighting and illuminating trains more effectively must be a legal requirement to save lives at level crossings, Australian Trucking Association Chair David Smith has said.

Smith was releasing the ATA’s response to the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator’s (ONRSR) draft Code of Practice on Level Crossings and Train Visibility.

“The code’s voluntary and non-binding nature is problematic for improving train illumination. Accidents at night-time represent a significant proportion of total road deaths, suggesting that decreased visibility plays a significant role in collisions,” Smith said.

“Road users and rail workers are dying, and better lighting on locomotives and wagons, such as flashing beacon lights and side lights could prevent crashes and save lives.

“The ATA strongly advocates for making lighting and illumination a legal requirement, emphasising that train conspicuity is a critical aspect of level crossing safety.

“Trucks are required by law to meet minimum lighting and illumination standards. There is no reason why trains should not be subject to similar requirements.”

Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) Assistant National Secretary Shayne Kummerfeld said the ATA’s call for flashing beacons and side-lights on trains to be made compulsory by law was a deliberate distraction from the real causes of level crossing collisions – the failure of drivers to abide by road rules, and the unrealistic pressure on truck drivers from trucking companies.

“Tinkering with lighting on trains will not change the dangerous behaviour of drivers who think they can ‘beat the train’ at a level crossing,” Kummerfeld said.

“The majority of level-crossing incidents occur during daylight hours when road traffic volumes are higher.

Adding lights for daytime issues is nonsensical.

“Furthermore, trains already have powerful headlights, so adding more lights would not make any positive difference to safety outcomes.

“In fact the RTBU is concerned the measures being promoted by the trucking lobby would be counterproductive to safety, as they would negatively affect visibility for train drivers and track workers.”

The ATA has called for the code to be transitioned into regulations under the Rail Safety National Law to ensure greater accountability and safety compliance in the rail industry.

“The ATA urges ONRSR to seize this opportunity to demonstrate the rail industry’s dedication to achieving zero deaths and serious injuries at level crossings,” Smith said.

Mr Kummerfeld said the RTBU was continuing to push for a zero-tolerance approach to level crossing safety.

“We will continue to support improvements to level crossing infrastructure, better driver education, and stronger enforcement of road rules – including the use of fixed and mobile safety cameras and higher penalties for motorists who illegally enter level crossings,” he said.

“Road rules are there for a reason, and everyone must obey them.”