Welcome back to our two-part series in what truckers need to know about handling railroad crossings. While these sections of road may seem ubiquitous and easy to understand, there’s a lot more to them than just stopping at the right time.
Today we are going to look closer at the various warning devices, gates and signs that govern how professional truck drivers should interact with railroad crossings. Let’s start with your auditory perception.
The Standard Bell
A standard bell, when activated, provides an audible warning sound. It can be used in conjunction with a flashing light signal and railroad gates. The standard bell is a particularly effective notification for pedestrians and cyclists.
The standard bell is designed to ring loudly as the train approaches and warn people in the surrounding area. The bell is generally mounted on top of one of the signal support masts. When the flashing signals activate, the bell is usually activated.
A standard gate assembly acts as an active traffic control device. It is used with flashing lights and is normally accompanied by a crossbuck sign and other active or passive warning signs.
Standard configurations for the gates include a drive mechanism and a fully reflective red and white striped arm gate. The gates generally stand parallel to the pavement by about four feet. The flashing light signal may be supported on the post bearing the standard gate or mounted separately.
When no train is approaching, the standard gate will be in the upright position, perpendicular to the ground. Under normal operation, the standard gate will be activated the moment a train approaches.
The standard gate arm will start its downward motion not less than three seconds after the signal lights begin to flash. The arm will reach its parallel position and remain there throughout the duration of the train traveling across the crossing, and will only return to the upright position once the train is completely passed.
Exempt and Yield Signs
You may encounter an exempt sign at a railroad crossing. This sign is placed in advance of certain type of freight traveling by. Some vehicles, buses and other highway users may not need to stop in these instances.
The only exceptions are in times that a signal, train crew member, or uniformed police officer indicates a train or other railroad equipment is approaching the railway crossing.
You may also encounter a yield sign at a railroad crossing. This sign is meant to assign the right of way. Vehicles governed by the yield sign must avoid interference with other vehicles, including trains, which automatically have the right-of-way.
Do Not Stop and Stop Signs
You may see a black and white regulatory sign placed at a crossing when engineers or experience has determined there is a high potential for vehicles to stop on the tracks, perhaps if it is around a blind corner.
A standard, red stop sign with white lettering is intended for times where motor vehicle traffic is present. The sign can be added to the crossing and require all vehicles to come to a complete stop before crossing the railroad tracks.
Parallel Track and Low Ground Clearance Signs
A diamond-shaped yellow advance warning sign located on the roadway parallel to the tracks may indicate the road ahead will cross tracks. It will warn drivers making a turn that a highway-rail grade crossing is right around the corner.
Truckers especially need to pay close attention to low ground clearance signs. These areas of the road might contain conditions that are sufficiently abrupt enough to create issues for long-wheelbase trucks or trailers with low ground clearance.
The final consideration in taking note of railway crossings lies in pavement markings. If you see an “R&R” with a white X painted onto the road, don’t think rest and relaxation; a railroad crossing is coming up.
With that, our series on railway crossing concludes. As a professional truck driver, always take special care around railway crossings. With vehicles as large as trucks and trains, negligence can result in disaster.