Rail industry news (Australia, New Zealand), Industry Safety, Operations and Maintenance

Size matters when approaching rail bridges

rail bridges

New vision released by Queensland Rail shows trucks, caravans, a bus, heavy loads and even a mounted camera slamming into rail bridges and protection beams, sending dangerous debris flying.

Queensland Rail South East Queensland head Scott Riedel said the new footage was alarming and has been released in a bid to curb the risky behaviour.

“In this vision you can see that the debris caused by vehicles hitting our rail bridges and protection beams is a serious hazard for other road users,” he said.

“In some instances, this flying debris nearly hits other vehicles.

“We hope this vision will shock drivers into ensuring their vehicle height is compliant for their journey and act as a timely reminder that high vehicles and loads, and our rail bridges do not mix.”

In the last financial year (2022-2023), there were 67 bridge strikes that occurred across the Queensland Rail network, two more than the 65 bridge strikes that occurred in the previous financial year (2021-2022).

These led to 533 delays to services for customers, with rail traffic halted after a strike until it can be deemed safe for trains to continue.

“We want to bring the number of bridge strikes down and, in a bid, to do that, we are refreshing our “Size Matters: Know Your Trucking Height” campaign this month,” Reidel said.

“This campaign is aimed at preventing vehicles from hitting bridges.  The call to action for all drivers is to know your vehicle height.

“Apart from causing serious risk to road users and delaying passenger trains, motorists who damage rail infrastructure can be fined up to $1238 and four demerit points and if the matter goes to court the maximum penalty for causing damage to rail infrastructure is 80 penalty units (approximately $12,384).”

Heavy Vehicle Industry Australia (HVIA) chief technical officer Adam Ritzinger also echoed Queensland Rail’s calls for awareness and education.

“Bridge strike incidents generate negative attention and detract from the incredibly high focus that the trucking industry typically places on road safety,” he said.

“The issue can be drivers who are unfamiliar with the vehicles they are operating.  That’s why the theme of this campaign is spot on – all drivers must know their truck’s height, including its load, and plan their journey accordingly”.

Queensland Trucking Association chief executive officer Gary Mahon said bridge strikes were avoidable.

“The ‘Size Matters: Know your Trucking Height’ message is critical for truck drivers delivering in SEQ,” he said.

“If you have newly licenced drivers or drivers scheduled on new routes, reinforcing this message in a pre-start check, toolbox talk and planning schedules could be valuable.  Any person hiring a heavy vehicle should also be informed of the truck height with a sticker visible in the vehicle.”

Since 2015, Queensland Rail has invested $15.5 million on bridge strike protection beams to 14 high priority, low-clearance rail bridges across the network.

Queensland Rail also invests in engineering and technology solutions, targeted marketing, and collaboration around enforcement with the Queensland Police Service.

The public can expect to hear and see the refreshed campaign on digital radio, social media and when onboard.

Visit the Size Matters website for more information or visit Queensland Rail’s website for a list of low clearance bridges in South East Queensland.