Australia, Safety, Transport Industry News

ATA and NHVR address next steps on improving level crossing safety

Level crossing safety

Level crossing safety has been at the forefront of the industry recently, after the Australian Trucking Association called on the National Rail Safety Regulator to improve guidelines on train illumination.

The Rail, Tram and Bus Union then responded, saying that driver behaviour was also significantly impacting on potential incidents between rail and road freight.

Presenting at Trucking Australia 2024, the ATA and National Heavy Vehicle Regulator are exploring what the next steps must be to improve level crossing safety on both sides.

ATA senior policy officer Chris Wren says focusing on illumination for both crossings and trains has received a significant amount of support from the industry.

“Fitting strobe lights on trains is a lower cost option to ensure visibility,” he says.

“Increasing visibility of trains will have significant road safety benefits. The majority of controls identified focus on better visibility.

“The rail industry seems to be choosing to ignore their own outcomes. Flashing beacons and lights could prevent crashes and save lives.

“More than 20 organisations, including peak road transport bodies, are supporting the push for better lighting on trains.”

He says that trucking operators also need to continue to educate their drivers on the safety issues surrounding level crossings and how their behaviour can influence possible incidents.

L-R: ALRTA executive director Rachel Smith, ATA policy advisor Chris Wren and NHVR CEO Sal Petroccitto. (Image: Prime Creative Media)

The ATA and NHVR released the National Level Crossing Safety Notice in March in pursuit of exactly that.

“We need to make this issue crystal clear and take it a lot more seriously. Educate your drivers, your colleagues, your workers and your friends,” Wren says.

“Even with efficient braking systems, it takes a significant amount of time for a train to stop, especially when travelling at high speeds.

“If you have drivers working for you, it’s your job to make sure they have all the tools to do their jobs safely. In this day and age it’s not a problem we should have to be facing.

“A momentary lapse is going to cost someone’s life.”

NHVR CEO Sal Petroccitto says that the regulator has been in contact with the National Rail Safety Regulator to open dialogue surrounding how the rail industry will act on the issue.

“CEO Natalie Pelham is attuned to this issue. We have a regular dialogue, we’re sharing a lot of the joint issues around this at the moment,” he says.

“There’s about 198 rail operators at the moment. When you compare it to the more than 50,000 heavy vehicle operators, it’s fairly different.

“The issue is the pace of how rail is moving to illumination.

“We’re working with the National Rail Safety Regulator on a standardised education program and with the rail regulator, Austroads and Australian Transport Safety Bureau on how we capture data and how it’s utilised surrounding level crossings.”

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