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Per FMCSA rule, hazmat hauler rail crossings now more limited

| September 26, 2013

Drivers hauling hazmat may no longer cross a highway-rail grade crossing unless there is sufficient space to drive completely through without stopping, per a rule made final this week by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. 

Compliance with the new regulation must begin Oct. 25. The rule applies to haulers of certain hazardous materials, agents and toxins.

The regulation will yield just shy of $1 million in benefits annually, says FMCSA, via avoided crashes at highway-rail crossings. 

The rule was first proposed in 2011, and the rule made final this addresses requirements in the MAP-21 highway funding law. 

The American Trucking Associations and the National Tank Truck Carriers said signs should be mandated at the 21,208 crossings that truckers cannot drive completely through without stopping. The FMCSA and the PHMSA said they lacked statutory authority for this mandate.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association commented the rule erroneously assumes drivers are aware of inadequate crossings. OOIDA and the Nebraska Department of Roads pointed out rural and industrial areas have many crossings lacking reasonable detour routes.

The officials acknowledged a hazmat driver in this situation could be forced to stop unexpectedly before clearing the track. “The agencies encourage enforcement discretion in those circumstances,” they wrote.

Carriers are mandated to provide route plans to hazmat drivers and this should include preparation for grade crossings “to the extent practicable.”

The agencies advocated planning to include discussions train schedules with railroad companies, a practice of the specialized equipment hauling industry and a recommendation of the National Transportation Safety Board.

The rule acknowledges a NTSB finding that shippers and receivers sometimes are aware of logistical problems that they do not share with carriers. “Therefore, motor carriers and brokers should ask shippers and receivers about any logistical or physical challenges that might exist near, or on the roads leading to, loading and delivery locations,” the agencies responded.

Last June, the Federal Railroad Administration released a mobile phone application for Apple brand iPhone TM and iPad TM users. “Although this app will not provide complete information to ensure compliance with the rule, it will assist drivers in more strategically planning their routes,” they stated.

Click here to see the Final Rule.

  • Sed

    FMCSA and NTSB need to stop what a joke they are

  • Shawn L Hubbard

    They had to make a rule for this? Call it natural selection…if you’re stopping your truck or trailer on railroad tracks, you probably shouldn’t be driving a truck to begin with.

  • Peter R

    I pull a chemical tanker, someone correct me if I’m wrong but this goes with out saying it is just common sense( I know not so common these days), if you have to stop before crossing and roll your windows down to listen for a train and you can’t shift gears while crossing, wouldn’t all of these rules pretty much lead you to think that stopping on the tracks in a no no? I’m sorry but I have to say this, if you drive a semi and you don’t think stopping on railroad tracks is a big deal then your an idiot!

  • john

    The same goes for school bus drivers. Of course, with all these crap-o-matic transmissions companies want to use (so they can hire less experienced drivers, [look in meritors brochure]), they take so long to get a heavy load going, the light will turn red before you get across the tracks.

    But still, poor planning by the driver is no excuse.

  • sracey

    We have to make rules for common sense. That’s sad, every driver should know you don’t stop with any portion of your vehicle on railroad tracks

  • Todd Dills

    I’m with you, Peter.

  • Moondancer

    The one thing all of you are forgetting is that the “new driver” isn’t always taught the proper way to do things. And common sense isn’t always in play when you have a “new driver” that thinks he/she knows everything. I actually witnessed a fuel tank driver NOT stop at an active RR and go thru a red light, when he stopped at a Walmart I pulled in behind him and a cop was behind me. I asked the driver, who was very young, why he didn’t stop at the RR crossing here is what he told me “I was told that when I am empty I don’t have to stop” WHAT?! yep that is what he said. I told him that he is more dangerous with an empty tank than when he is full, he told me that I had no idea and he has been driving for 3 years and he knows all about hauling fuel. Well I have never hauled fuel but I have several friends that have and do add to that I have been driving 30yrs and hauled hazmat. Nope I don’t know but correct me if I am wrong, a tank full of fumes is worse than a full tank, correct?! I just told him that if it was me he would no longer be driving, and walked away. The cop was walking up as I was walking away shaking my head, he stopped me and asked me what I was doing and I and told him that in all my years of driving this was the first time I was ashamed to be a driver. We need to close the “6 week” schools and have schools that really spend the time and teach the future drivers what they need to know to be safe.

  • William McKelvie

    I’ve NEVER had a carrier present me with ANY routes while carrying hazmat. If you depend on them to do that, DON’T PULL IT. Problem solved. They screw up so much already, why would ANYONE depend on those wet behind the ears company college graduates??? I surely don’t.

  • William McKelvie

    Well Pete ………. what does all of this go right back to?? And what did the FMCSA SHELVE a few weeks back?? TRAINING. BASIC TRAINING. That is ALL that all of these rules and regulations that have come out of the FMCSA over past couple of years. Yet they SHELVED it as not important. Imagine that.

  • Jim Kennedy

    You’re absolutely right. I was trained to stop b4 every set of tracks then look n listen.

  • MillionOfMiles

    This rule is NOT limited to just those hauling haz mat – it includes ALL operators of commercial motor vehicles. Everyone in the trucking media has been incorrectly saying this is ONLY for drivers hauling haz mat – wrong!

  • Aaron

    And it’s not just common sense for those in trucks, haz-mat or otherwise… No matter what you are driving, you don’t stop on RR Tracks… Come on people!! Do we really have to spell it out when we all learned it at 15-16 in driver’s ed?

  • Chip Mock

    WE REALLY NEEDED THE FMCSA TO TELL US THIS well I guess if we are not smart enough to know when to take a break we must not be smart enough to know not to stop on the tracks

  • Chip Mock

    why does this rule not pertain to EVERY TRUCK on the road?

  • Myron LInd

    Well, at furst I thot this was just another silly rule, but then I got ta thinkun and I am purty sure this law will help keep me outa trubil. Cuz ya see, I was haulin some real hi dolla explosives an I wuz half way cross some track and I look in the mirror an it sez “GET OUT AND LOOK”. Wel, lucky for me, I still has the 2×4 in the truk fur adjustin the clutch an I know I aint spozed to be shiftin gears an all right on them tracks, so I just set that 2×4 tween the seat and da clutch leavin the truck in gear so as to not be braken any laws, and got out to hava look. Cuz, ya know, dats da law. Wel, the truck, she starts a rollin just a bit, so I grab the frier extingisher and shuv it under the drive wheel so I can finish lookin. Wel, here come dis cop an he sez “whataya doin” and I sez “having a look” and he writes me a ticket for improper mounted frier extingisher. An I sez “iffin it aint mounted attal, it shore cant be improper”, but he wouldnt give me no slack. Wel, I waz fit to be tide and I gets back to the truck and while I climin back in my foot slips an I nock that 2×4 right out frum dat cluch pedal and she starts moving without me. Wel, thers a scramble, and the door shuts on my finger, and some blood comes out, but I git her stopped and all, cuz I am a tru professional an I take my job reel serious like. But dats not the real issue. See, after gettin that ticket an all, my dispacher puts me on probashen an such and I even tho I told hem I NEVER used the radio EVER when Im haulin radio active. It just dont seem to mater. So he sends me out for some matts and I go ther an I tell da guy I am ther for some matts an the guy points to a differin guy and says “he haz matts”. Wel, I am fit to be tide all over again cuz I anit spozed to be haulin no more hazmat, but my co-driver says it aint much problem cuz the dispacher hes dumb as a rock and just haul the stuff and keep my logs current. Wel, these matts, they just a bunch of big ol timbers chained tagether fur running heavy equipmant on an stuff. They don’t look too dangerous but I don’t kno what da other guy was callin em logs fur, cuz they is square as can be and logs is round. Anyway, we load em up an I chain em down an just ta be extra safe I stik some “flamable” placs on der cuz you an I both kno–those bad boyz wuld burn rite up iffin ya lit a fire to em. An speakin a lit up, now as Im back off probashen, I usually don’t hall no hazmat til I got a couple of buds in me, cuz then I can’t see so good an I cant read dat sign on the mirror tellin me ta “GET OUT AND LOOK” when Im spoozt ta be stayin right der in da truck. No more cunfuzion. An my dispacher–he sez a well lit truck is a safe truck, so it seems lika a winner fur me cuz sein how I cant aford no chicken lites, me bein lit seems lit the next best thing. Well, as ya can see, it can all be purty confuzzin. An I told my co-driver dat its time someone does sumptin bout all this an I gonna rite a leter to the prezident and tellim ders just to many rules. An my co-driver he sez the prezident he don’t care but I kno he does cuz every night on the TV is sez so right ther–“OBAMACARE”. So I figur dats why Im da driver an hes just a co-driver. So, der it iz, an now wer all better off fur it. And fur all my replublican frends, dont be drivin like no jackass. Ten-4?

  • tim b

    I think you guys aren’t reading this correctly, or maybe I got this wrong.
    This rule means, if you have a rr crossing, then a stop sign, or traffic light, that is within a truck length of the rr crosing, you can no longer use that crossing at all.
    For exmaple, many rail bed and roadways run close side by side at times. You know, running same direction. So here you come with your big bad hazmat load, trying to enter main drag from a side street. You got rr crossing, then main street is right there. Tracks then roadway. Cool right? Well not unless there is room for you to completely clear the track crossing before you have to stop to enter the main road. I can think of tons of these just like this. Of course anyone with a brain would make sure you are clear of rail traffic, then check for road traffic, then roll over tracks and right onto roadway without a stopping at all.
    But you know how that goes….might take a bit of common sense and cheap freight doesnt pay enough for common sense.

  • Dr Duke

    Hey, how about we just make a rule that says it is prohibited to have a wreck?
    By their logic that should save millions of dollars a year. Then we can ban crime.

  • Craig Vecellio

    This should make it interesting at shipping ports that have rails running all over the place. I have seen some that require you to stop while straddling the tracks before entering the main road when you leave. It sounds good, and makes sense for general purpose, but some yards are set up screwy. Those yards always make me nervous.

  • stlncklght

    I drive in St. Louis and many locations have one way in and out, which is to the main road with a light, a 1-2 vehicle gap and RR tracks. strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.