How to Approach Railroad Crossings

railroad crossing

How to Prevent this from Happening

General considerations

Railroads represent a major safety hazard for forklift drivers. In fact, a full 35% of crashes at private railroad crossings (and 18% of public railroad crossings) involve large vehicles such as forklifts. There are a number of factors that make railroads difficult. The inherent instability of the forklift makes it difficult for the vehicle to maintain steady balance. Furthermore, it is easy for wheels to get stuck—obviously a disastrous situation. Finally, because forklift operators are not always required to stop at railroad crossings (the way drivers of other large vehicles are), drivers are liable to not exercise enough caution.

How exactly should you approach railroad crossings?

Obviously, you want to approach railroad crossings with extreme caution. When approaching the crossing, slow down and survey the scene. Clear your mind of any distractions, as you need to be well-aware of the sights and sounds around you. Check for any incoming trains, and judge the conditions. Every railroad is a bit different, so even if you’ve crossed railroads dozens of times, you need to approach each as if it were your first time. Evaluate the level of ground clearance needed, and gauge the amount of space on the opposite side. It is also a good idea to wear safety clothing to warn drivers and pedestrians of your presence.

Crossing the tracks

Crossing the railroad tracks is a major hazard because of the instability of the ground. If you are not careful, it is easy to get a wheel stuck and find yourself in a seriously dangerous situation. You want to spend as little time as possible on the railroad tracks, so you need to cross in such a way that your vehicle won’t get snagged. The best approach is to cross at a diagonal, with one wheel at a time moving across the tracks. This allows the vehicle to maintain sufficient balance, although you need to be mindful of the extra space needed for the diagonal trajectory.

Railroads are anxiety-inducing for forklift operators, but exercising caution and moving at a diagonal will prevent a serious injury from taking place.

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