Truck/Rail Industries Tackle Crossing Safety Head-On

EDMONTON – The recent tragedy near Grande Prairie in which a 12-year old boy lost both his legs in a rail accident once again brings home the need to continue raising awareness about the potential dangers of improperly interacting with trains.

It is important to realize that almost all deaths and injuries involving trains are preventable. Yet each year, there are approximately 40 collisions involving commercial vehicles and trains at protected and unprotected road / railway crossings. The property damage from these collisions often exceeds millions of dollars per occurrence.

Operation Lifesaver is a national not-for profit organization dedicated to the reduction of deaths injuries and property damage caused by highway / railway crossing collisions or trespassing incidents. Every province in Canada boasts a provincial committee that strives to bring the rail safety message to public and industry groups of all ages and backgrounds.

The Alberta Operation Lifesaver Committee is hosting a Rail Safety Awareness day on Thursday September 25, 2003 in Lacombe, Alberta. The purpose of this day is two-fold: to raise public awareness about how to minimize the potential danger of interacting with trains and to launch three new rail safety educational kits aimed at the commercial vehicle field (truck and bus operators) and emergency response personnel.

Where: Lacombe Memorial Centre
5214 – 50 Avenue
Lacombe, Alberta

When: Thursday September 25, 2003 – Lacombe, Alberta

10:00 am: Guest Speakers & Presentation of Educational Kits to Industry Leaders

Who: Representatives of Federal, Provincial and Local Government, Industry Leaders, Alberta Operation Lifesaver Committee Members and Members of the General Public

Why: Deaths and injuries continue to result from encounters at highway/railway grade crossings and as a result of trespassing on rail property.

Key rail safety issues specific to the province of Alberta will be addressed as will future plans for continued rail safety education and public awareness in the province of Alberta. Please join representatives of Transport Canada, Alberta Transportation, local government, industry, and the general public to further reduce the death and injury toll that results from improper interaction with trains.

Children --another prime target of the Operation Lifesaver public education campaigns-- will also benefit. In an effort to impress upon them the potential danger of not following some basic rail safety tips, more than 2000 children in the Lacombe / Blackfalds school districts area will receive rail safety presentations from trained rail safety professionals during the afternoon of September 25th.

If you or someone from your staff is interested in attending, please contact Tim Husel and Laurie Leclair for additional information. Operation Lifesaver representatives will also be made available to media on September 25th.


The sheer force and weight of trains and heavy trucks trying to cross the tracks at the same time can be deadly and dramatic. There’s an average of 40 such collisions a year. The toll? Up to four dead, as many as eight seriously injured each year, and property damage that can reach $10 million in a flash.

The number of collisions between heavy trucks and trains is a fraction of the accidents involving commercial vehicles on the highways. But some 20 per cent of the truck-train collisions result in a train derailment, and more than half those collisions take place at public crossings already equipped with flashing lights and bells.

One positive result of such developments? Canada’s trucking and railway industries have agreed to work together in a concerted attempt to determine the root cause of the problem. The objective: reduce, at least, and eliminate, if possible, the factors that put public safety, and both modes’ capital and human resources in such extreme danger.

Dan Di Tota, national director of the non-profit public education program Operation Lifesaver, said today “the transportation industries agree on the need and the potential to make a difference.’

“A volunteer working group has been assembled, including representatives of for-hire and private transport fleets, owner-operators, and the railways; Quebec, Ontario and federal governments, police, national and provincial safety councils, to tackle the issue head-on,” he said.

“Ontario, Quebec and Alberta have been selected initially to help us focus our effort, because of the volume of commercial traffic involved and associated higher risk in those jurisdictions,” said Mr. Di Tota. “Progress will be tracked. The program will be adjusted as required, and content adapted as warranted.”

Truck driver safety awareness training material for tractor trailer operators has been produced, including a safety guide, tip sheet, video, driver instructor’s guide, student notes and quiz. Trucking companies, trucking associations and truck driver training schools have all agreed to help make the material as widely available as possible.

The training packages are being distributed through the Alberta Safety Council, and are already targeted for use by Economy Carriers and Mullen Trucking in their own training programs. “By sharing our information on an on-going basis, we can use it for educating our staffs, raising the profile of the problem and, in time, making a difference in highway-rail crossing safety,” said Roy Craigen of Edmonton, team leader with the ECL Group of Companies’ special commodities division.

“Truck-train weight and braking distance comparisons are particularly enlightening for this group,” said Steve Harvey, who represents Operation Lifesaver, Direction 2006 and GO Transit in these safety-related programs. “A tractor trailer rolling at 90 km an hour needs 90 metres to stop. A freight train traveling 90 km an hour takes up to 1,600 metres to stop.’

“A soft drink can weighs four-tenths of a kg; a car, 1,400 kgs; a tractor trailer, 36,300 kgs, and a freight train, six million kgs,” he said. “That gets them interested. He has already run some classes for driver trainers to test the program content and reaction to it. “What the driver trainers really like is that the package is self-contained. They can use it immediately.”

“The material has been well-received, particularly the video footage of a train pushing a tractor trailer as just so much dead weight, snapping off poles along the track. That got their attention,” said Mr. Harvey. “It’s important for truck drivers to know their route, and to really know the size of their rig. They don’t want over-hang on a railway track, and neither do we!”

Operation Lifesaver is the national public safety program sponsored by Transport Canada and the Railway Association of Canada that works in partnership with provincial safety councils, police, unions, railways and community groups. It already has an excellent track record.

An extra public/private initiative Direction 2006, has broadened the partnership, conducted research and introduced new educational and public information resources, tools and technology to cut crossing collisions and trespassing incidents in half by the end of 2006.

Contact Information:

Tim Husel
Chair - Alberta Operation Lifesaver Committee
Telephone: (780) 448-4980
E-mail: Tim.Husel@railamerica.caom

Laurie Leclair
Executive Director – Alberta Safety Council
Telephone: (780) 462-7300