Operation Lifesavers Inc. (OLI) is offering professional truck drivers an online interactive safety course designed to help them make sound decisions at railroad crossings.
OLI is an Alexandria, Va.-based organization that works to prevent collisions on and around railroad tracks.
The fiery June 24 collision between a tractor-trailer and an Amtrak train near Reno, which left six people dead and about 20 injured, was just a particularly tragic example of an all-too-common occurrence on the nation's roadways, according to OLI. Since the Reno crash, there have been at least four other fatal truck-train collisions across the U.S., plus at least two other non-fatal crashes.
In the June crash about 70 mi. east of Reno, driver Lawrence Valli, 43, tried to slow down at the last minute before driving through a crossing gate and warning signals and slamming into two double-decker Amtrak cars, killing him and five people aboard the train.
Since then, fatal truck-train collisions occurred on July 3 in Muncie, IN.; on July 11 in North Berwick, Maine; on July 19 in Union City, OK, and on July 21 in Braddock, PA. In each of those crashes, the tractor-trailer driver was the only fatality. Last Wednesday, in Asheboro, NC, a Memphis trucker driver was hit and dragged 214 ft. after crossing in front of a Norfolk Southern Train.
Seventy people died last year in 511 collisions between trains and large trucks, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.
Since June 9, about 15,000 truck drivers have taken the ProDriver Safety Challenge (oli.org/ProDriver), OLI spokeswoman Marmie Edwards said.
“It’s basically like a video game, but it’s a safety video game,” Edwards said.
In a simulated driving environment, drivers are exposed to worst-case scenarios that require quick thinking and critical decision-making, she said. The group hopes to reach 100,000 drivers this year and eventually all professional truckers.
Rickey Oliver, 49, a 25-year trucker who has safely driven 2.5 million miles, helped design the OLI training. He says it's meant to “teach you to just cut out all your distractions like a cellphone or radio, roll down your windows and be ready to stop” when nearing railroad crossings.