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 Post subject: partial OT: Utah frontrunner incident
PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2017 11:43 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 5:55 pm
Posts: 676
Location: Warren, PA
Seeing as how the video of the FedEx hit is now on the national news pages - and it seems like most of us are also the designated 'local train experts'.... and are rather astounded on the video with the gates clearly not working up to the collision.

If you look at the dashcam video about 49 seconds in - post collision - you will clearly see the door of the signal cabinet to the right opening and someone coming out of it, and then the gates drop and lights flash.

Anything beyond that is pure speculation, but most of us will draw our own conclusions that really can't be proven at this point. I do know that any railroader that sees that dashcam video sincerely wonders how it could possibly happen and is at a loss for words when asked. It's on the full video if you look for it - the one I looked at was posted on the NBC news website.


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 Post subject: Re: partial OT: Utah frontrunner incident
PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2017 2:21 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 8:28 am
Posts: 2435
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
When the truck in front of the police car with the dash cam clears the crossing, you see a white truck on the side of the road with a rack in the bed. The white truck has it's flashers on. Pure conjecture, but Utah Transit Authority service trucks are white, with a similar type of ladder rack on the bed.

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 Post subject: Re: partial OT: Utah frontrunner incident
PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2017 2:21 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 8:51 pm
Posts: 1474
Location: Southern California
Checking the news coverage for the location (1100 North in Woods Cross) and then looking at Google Map street view, I have a few observations:

At this location there are four tracks. Each pair seems to have been built to different standards of ballast, ties, etc. It looks like the western pair is the UP and the other two are the newer installation for Fronrunner (the station further north is on this line); the eastern most track appears to be a switching lead for the industries on the east side of the ROW.

There are two signal cabinets on the south side of the street -- one on the west side and one on the east side.

The police car was traveling east and the Frontrunner train was south bound.

This appears to be the full official version of the dashcam released from the police department: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2aUzFhHqBM

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 Post subject: Re: partial OT: Utah frontrunner incident
PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2017 3:41 pm 

Joined: Fri Aug 27, 2004 4:02 pm
Posts: 966
Location: Back in NE Ohio
They can't cite the truck driver, the video clearly proves this accident was the result of what is known in the industry as a "Grade Crossing Warning Device activation failure". It either happened as the result of an equipment failure, or deactivation by a MoW signals employee. If the train that struck the truck was the first train to pass the crossing after the failure, then the T&E crew can't be held at fault, since they didn't know the warning devices were not working properly. If the signals were disabled by a maintainer, that person screwed up by not ensuring that either a train did not pass the crossing while the signals were out-of-order, or calling the dispatcher to notify the crew of any oncoming train to stop and flag the crossing. Either way, expect a lawsuit from FedEx, and if I were to be on a jury in such a case, I would find for the plaintiff.


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 Post subject: Re: partial OT: Utah frontrunner incident
PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2017 3:42 pm 

Joined: Wed Oct 22, 2008 8:18 pm
Posts: 2050
yep, looks like someone came out of the box, someone manipulating the circuit, and the gates come right down on his exit. Someone knows a little electricity, disgruntled or whatever. Unless there was a worker there and went...uhtoh...

but number 1 rule at crossing gate, any railroad, stop, look, and listen.


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 Post subject: Re: partial OT: Utah frontrunner incident
PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2017 3:50 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 8:28 am
Posts: 2435
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Brian Norden wrote:
Checking the news coverage for the location (1100 North in Woods Cross) and then looking at Google Map street view, I have a few observations:

At this location there are four tracks. Each pair seems to have been built to different standards of ballast, ties, etc. It looks like the western pair is the UP and the other two are the newer installation for Fronrunner (the station further north is on this line); the eastern most track appears to be a switching lead for the industries on the east side of the ROW.

There are two signal cabinets on the south side of the street -- one on the west side and one on the east side.

The police car was traveling east and the Frontrunner train was south bound.

This appears to be the full official version of the dashcam released from the police department: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2aUzFhHqBM


Front Runner is built on its own dedicated ROW. Any freight traffic for local industries is handled at night, from one of two connections with the UP.

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 Post subject: Re: partial OT: Utah frontrunner incident
PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2017 4:46 pm 

Joined: Sun Sep 14, 2014 5:05 pm
Posts: 541
What's "frontrunner"? You discription is of a grade crossing acident between a Federal Express truck and what?


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 Post subject: Re: partial OT: Utah frontrunner incident
PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2017 7:19 pm 

Joined: Wed Nov 23, 2016 7:05 pm
Posts: 63
Quote:
They can't cite the truck driver, the video clearly proves this accident was the result of what is known in the industry as a "Grade Crossing Warning Device activation failure".


Wrong on so many levels.

The video proves two primary things - the train hit the truck and the warning device wasn't activated during and immediately preceding the impact (only proven for the duration of the available video). It also appears to show that someone was in the instrument house during the event and the equipment activated after the impact occurred. Since the truck was impacted, it also proves the truck was on the crossing at the time of the event, which it should not have been. Beyond that it proves nothing that I see at first glance. I'm not in Utah, but the Utah statute seems to be effectively similar to other states' traffic code, which says drivers have to keep off the crossing if a train is present/approaching.

(edit - removed noncommercial code cite)

The released video linked above did not have audio when I played it, so I don't have any way of actually determining if the horn was sounded.

Active protection is not the be-all, end-all that people think it is. Do you stand under a crane lifting a load? No? Why? Because something might fail and squash you. If something as simple as a sling can fail, what makes anyone think an electronic what's-it won't fail at any time?

The news media doesn't help things by not reminding the general public of this (or really anything very helpful) when it has an opportunity like this. I don't trust warning devices implicitly, in part because when I learned to drive it was taught to me, as it still should be. After going to work on the RR, I became even more aware of what can happen. Never occupy a crossing unless you've conferred with Mr. Darwin and assessed the current risks. As they used to say on TV - It's not just good sense, it's the law......

The investigation will likely focus primarily on who knew what when - trouble desk, maintainer, train crews, dispatcher, and who did what when. Cause could have been anything - several things contributing or a single human failure, including a simple lack of available response time (that pesky clock never stops, no matter what). I can think of at least four scenarios without trying, but we won't know until the investigation is done.

One media report I saw reported the RR signal people were suspended, but at this point that's probably company policy during an investigation and doesn't really mean anything. Most of the media reports I saw were at least a bit ridiculous, in concert with their usual lack of knowledge and willingness to talk about it anyway.

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Last edited by TrainDetainer on Sat Jan 28, 2017 4:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: partial OT: Utah frontrunner incident
PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2017 7:37 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 8:28 am
Posts: 2435
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
John T wrote:
What's "frontrunner"? You discription is of a grade crossing acident between a Federal Express truck and what?


Frontrunner is the heavy commter rail service oprated by the Utah Transit Authority ("UTA"). It runs from the Ogden area through Salt Lake City and south to Provo.

TrainDetainer wrote:
Quote:
They can't cite the truck driver, the video clearly proves this accident was the result of what is known in the industry as a "Grade Crossing Warning Device activation failure".


Wrong on so many levels.

The video proves two primary things - the train hit the truck and the protection wasn't activated during and immediately preceding the impact (only proven for the duration of the available video). It also appears to show that someone was in the instrument house during the event and the protection activated after the impact occurred. Since the truck was impacted, it also proves the truck was on the crossing at the time of the event, which it should not have been. Beyond that it proves nothing that I see at first glance. I'm not in Utah, but the Utah statute seems to be effectively similar to other states' traffic code.

Utah Code 41-6a-1203. Railroad grade crossing -- Duty to stop

(2) Whenever a person operating a vehicle approaches a railroad grade crossing, the operator of the vehicle shall stop within 50 feet but not less than 15 feet from the nearest rail of the railroad track and may not proceed if:

(c) a railroad train approaching within approximately 1,500 feet of the highway crossing emits a signal audible and the train by reason of its speed or nearness to the crossing is an immediate hazard;
(d) an approaching train is plainly visible and is in hazardous proximity to the crossing;

The released video linked above did not have audio when I played it, so I don't have any way of determining if the horn was sounded.

Active protection is not the be-all, end-all that people think it is. Do you stand under a crane lifting a load? No? Why? Because something might fail and squash you. If something as simple as a sling can fail, what makes anyone think an electronic what's-it won't fail at any time?

The news media doesn't help things by not reminding the general public of this (or really anything very helpful) when it has an opportunity like this. I don't trust warning devices implicitly, in part because when I learned to drive it was taught to me, as it still should be. After going to work on the RR, I became even more aware of what can happen. Never occupy a crossing unless you've conferred with Mr. Darwin and assessed the current risks. As they used to say on TV - It's not just good sense, it's the law......

The investigation will likely focus primarily on who knew what when - trouble desk, maintainer, train crews, dispatcher, and who did what when. Cause could have been anything - several things contributing or a single human failure, including a simple lack of available response time (that pesky clock never stops, no matter what). I can think of at least four scenarios without trying, but we won't know until the investigation is done.

One media report I saw reported the RR signal people were suspended, but at this point that's probably company policy during an investigation and doesn't really mean anything. Most of the media reports I saw were at least a bit ridiculous, in concert with their usual lack of knowledge and willingness to talk about it anyway.


Your cited code section may not apply, since the truck in question is a commercial vehicle. Instead, I refer you to Utah Code 41-6a-1205, which states:

Quote:
41-6a-1205. Railroad grade crossings -- Certain vehicles must stop -- Exceptions -- Rules.
(1) An operator of a commercial motor vehicle, as defined under Section 53-3-102, shall upon approaching a railroad grade crossing:
(a) unless Subsection (2) applies, slow down and check that the tracks are clear of an approaching train;
(b) stop within 50 feet, but not closer than 15 feet, from the nearest rail of the railroad track before reaching the crossing if the tracks are not clear;

(c) obey all traffic control devices or the directions of a peace officer, or other crossing official at the crossing; and
(d) before proceeding over a railroad grade crossing:
(i) ensure that the vehicle has sufficient space to drive completely through a railroad grade crossing without stopping; and
(ii) ensure that the vehicle has sufficient undercarriage clearance to safely and completely pass through the crossing.
(2)
(a) Except as provided in Subsection (3), the operator of a vehicle described in 49 CFR 392.10 shall stop within 50 feet, but not closer than 15 feet, from the nearest rail of the railroad track before crossing, at grade, any track of a railroad.
(b) While stopped, the operator shall look in both directions along the track for any sign of an approaching train and look and listen for signals indicating the approach of any train.
(c) The operator may proceed across the railroad track only when the movement may be made with reasonable safety.
(d) After stopping as required and upon safely proceeding, the operator shall only cross the railroad track in a gear that ensures no necessity for manually changing gears while traversing the crossing.
(e) The operator may not manually shift gears while crossing the railroad track.
(3) This section does not apply at a:
(a) railroad grade crossing where traffic is controlled by a peace officer or other crossing official;
(b) railroad grade crossing where traffic is regulated by a traffic-control signal;
(c) railroad grade crossing where a traffic-control device gives notice that the stopping requirements of this section are not applicable; or
(d) other railroad grade crossings excluded under 49 CFR 392.10.
(4) A violation of this section is an infraction.


Regardless of what code applies, it is just an infraction. I imagine UTA may have some civil liability if in fact one of their employees was responsible for the gates and signals not being operable. Then again, UTA may be protected under the Utah Government Immunity Act, Utah Code 63G-7-101, et seq.

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 Post subject: Re: partial OT: Utah frontrunner incident
PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2017 7:51 pm 

Joined: Sun May 12, 2013 2:46 pm
Posts: 142
Worked for the railroad for 38 years. Me and my fellow workers quickly learned to never ever trust automatic crossing protection with our lives . I don't care how modern or how many backup systems they have or how many times I've been told by the Signal Department "this new System is really fool proof " , whether human error , electrical , mechanical or what have you , DON'T CROSS A TRACK WITHOUT LOOKING BOTH WAYS even if everyone else just keeps plodding along . I can't tell you how many times I've seen Scoots (CNW/UP/Metra commuter trains) hit the crossings with the gates still up , but start to drop once it's on the street. I tell my wife , please, please never ever trust those crossing gates!


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 Post subject: Re: partial OT: Utah frontrunner incident
PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2017 8:10 pm 

Joined: Wed Nov 23, 2016 7:05 pm
Posts: 63
David Wilkins -

Yes you're probably correct - I didn't bother to fish through the commercial stuff, but the effect looks the same. Thanks for digging further. There is a somewhat better local news story on railroad.net - a few more details there. Per that report the driver stated he looked but didn't see the train account weather, and the gates had apparently been reported as a false activation with maintainer working on site.

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 Post subject: Re: partial OT: Utah frontrunner incident
PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2017 9:20 pm 

Joined: Mon Feb 06, 2012 1:07 pm
Posts: 136
Location: Utah
This event has garnered national interest, much speculation and a whole lot of finger-pointing.

All of the known facts about the event were compiled in an article on Desert Empire Project http://desertempireproject.blogspot.com/2017/01/frontrunner-wreck-becomes-viral.html which may answer a lot of your questions.

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 Post subject: Re: partial OT: Utah frontrunner incident
PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2017 10:25 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 5:10 pm
Posts: 944
I may be in error here, but I believe part of the federal regs concerning grade crossing protection require a flagman on each side of a crossing that has failed protection until such time as the failure is corrected and verified.


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 Post subject: Re: partial OT: Utah frontrunner incident
PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2017 7:47 am 

Joined: Wed Oct 22, 2008 8:18 pm
Posts: 2050
It mentions a driver was following c losely behind the FedEx truck. I just today saw a similar situation on the freeway, 3 truck drivers, 2 behind were following practically 1 car length from each other, at speed. Its no wonder chain reaction accidents happen on these highways.

There may be all kinds of requirements for non-functioning gates, protocol to follow, or not maybe, the hard smart rule is...Stop, Look, Listen. You just don't cross the the tracks following another barely behind hoping a train doesn't hit you.

George Carlin said it right,
Quote:
Trains are on tracks; they can't come and get you


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTSOXEQlcXk


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 Post subject: Re: partial OT: Utah frontrunner incident
PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2017 10:28 am 

Joined: Fri Feb 26, 2010 9:52 pm
Posts: 33
As someone who has had to investigate these type of accidents, I always like to wait until the investigation is complete. There may or may not be various contributing factors and I hate to speculate until all the facts are available.

Mike Ramsey


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