A truck driver who was killed after his vehicle got stuck on a level crossing in Rangiriri, New Zealand, failed to obey a stop sign before entering the intersection, the country’s Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) has found.
Despite finding the incident was caused by the driver’s failure to stop, the TAIC also found the crossing was an inherently dangerous one, with sight lines and ground clearance presenting major issues for road vehicles.
“In this case the train, which had its headlight and side ‘ditch lights’ switched on, would have been visible to the truck driver as his truck reached the stop signs at the level crossing,” the TAIC said in its report, released late in June.
“Had the driver stopped his truck and looked for trains, the accident would likely not have happened.
“However, there were broader safety issues with the level crossing that in different circumstances may have resulted in the accident, even if the driver had stopped at the limit line of the level crossing.”
The incident took place at the Te Onetea Road level crossing on February 27, 2014.
A Northern Explorer passenger train, travelling from Auckland to Wellington, passed through Te Kauwhata station – about 3.5 kilometres north of the level crossing – at 0937.
Meanwhile a truck and long low-loader carrying a road roller was travelling along Te Onetea Road, with the driver looking for a suitable place to turn around.
The TAIC said the truck was approaching the Te Onetea crossing while the train would have been coming into view.
The crossing has ‘passive’ controls, made up of ‘Stop’ and ‘Look for Trains’ signs.
“The truck driver entered the level crossing without stopping and his trailer unit grounded on the rise leading up to the rail tracks,” the TAIC said.
“The truck became stuck, with its driving unit obstructing the track along which the train was approaching.”
The train driver saw the truck and applied the train’s emergency braking, but the train collided with the driving unit of the truck at 78 kilometres an hour.
The truck driver was killed in the collision. The train stayed on the tracks, and none of its five crew and 108 passengers were injured.
While the TAIC was confident the truck driver would have seen the train in this instance if he had stopped, it identified two safety issues with the crossing, resulting in two recommendations made to the chief executive of the New Zealand Transport Agency.
“The Commission identified two safety issues,” it wrote.
“The first was that the view lines from the stop limit line on the road, along the rail tracks in both directions, did not comply with the minimum restart sighting distances set out in the NZ Transport Agency’s Traffic Control Devices Manual, Part 9, Level Crossings.
“It was therefore possible that when a train was just out of a truck driver’s view, a fully road-compliant heavy road vehicle would not have sufficient time to pass over the level crossing without being struck by the train.
“The second safety issue identified was that level crossing assessments do not require the road profile and the alignment of roads on the approach to and passing over level crossings to be routinely measured.
“Therefore, there are no checks made to ensure that all road-legal vehicles can pass over level crossings without becoming stuck, as happened in this case.”