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Saturday, June 13, 2015

My Lesson Learned at a Railroad Crossing
Sometimes, you learn the hard way. As mentioned previously in this blog, in more than 30 years of professional driving, I have gotten three citations in a truck, two for speed and one for an illegal turn. 

The one for the turn came as a result of not paying attention at a rail crossing in 1983. I had been driving professionally for only a couple years, was in rural South Carolina and had made a wrong turn. In an effort to get "squared away", I saw a large lot off to the left at a cross street. There was a railroad track running parallel to the highway, and in my hurry to get turned around, totally missed seeing the no left turn sign. On top of that, I didn’t notice how high the grade was that the track was on! Proceeding into the turn across the tracks, I heard the landing gear of the trailer skidding on the pavement and went hard to the brakes. It was too late and I was high centered across the track! The trailer was loaded and the landing gear raised as high as it could go, I was screwed and there was no way I was getting off that track without help.

Thankfully, there was a little store right there with a payphone (remember those?), so I was able to call the police and get any oncoming trains stopped.  Out comes a South Carolina Sheriff's Deputy and he chewed me out quite a bit before proceeding to write that ticket.  He pointed out to me that the reason for the no left turn sign was the high grade of the track.  Turned out there were no trains scheduled to come through and a tow truck came out and got me off the track.  It was a very embarrassing afternoon!  The situation could have been a lot worse though, we all need to be aware at railroad crossings.  These days, the penalties for DOT regulated drivers are much more severe for railroad crossing violations and your CDL will be at risk.  See the current info from the FMCSA website below.
If I remember correctly, my ticket cost me about $60.00, but in 1983, that wasn’t cheap.
Civil Penalties
Violating the new FMCSA rail crossing rule can result in Federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 for drivers and up to $11,000 for employers who allow or require drivers to operate CMVs onto a rail crossing without having enough room to clear the tracks completely without stopping.


CDL holders convicted of violating State traffic laws concerning the failure to have sufficient space to clear the tracks completely without stopping must be disqualified for at least:
- See more at:

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