“Trucks are longer than cars and take longer to get over level crossings. Truck drivers need to be able to spot trains as early as possible, which means we need to upgrade train lighting,” said Australian Trucking Association (ATA) CEO Mathew Munro.
The ATA says the Australian Government should require all railway locomotives to be fitted with flashing beacon lights.
Munro says the proposal would help save the lives of truck drivers at level crossings without boom gates or flashing lights.
Earlier this month, CBH Group (CBH) – a co-operative owned and controlled by Western Australian grain growing businesses, said it would install new LED beacon lights on all current and future locomotives to enhance train visibility in regional parts of the state.
This follows the successful completion of trials conducted with CBH’s rail service provider, Aurizon. Three trials were conducted to determine the safest and most effective configuration of LED beacon lights on the locomotives.
The new LED beacon lights will sit on the headboard of the narrow-gauge and standard-gauge locomotives, which will enhance the visibility of the train, without compromising the safety of road users or train drivers.
CBH will begin installing the panels from October 1, in line with scheduled maintenance and change out programs carried out by Aurizon. The roll-out is expected to take between 12 and 18 months.
“CBH will ensure that lighting on our new locomotives will meet or exceed this updated standard. Any safety improvements we make to our current locomotives and wagons will be implemented into the new fleet prior to them entering service,” said CBH chief operating officer Mick Daw.
“Improving rail safety requires a holistic view, from increased lighting on and visibility of rail rolling stock, to improving passive level crossings, as the state government is doing, to making safety front of mind for those who interact with rail infrastructure – which are all required to drive the safety outcomes we need to see across the state.”
While the ATA has welcomed the news from CBH Group, it says more needs to be done across the industry. “It’s a welcome commitment, but we need to see it country-wide,” added Munro.
“The ATA has also urged the government to press ahead with implementing the National Level Crossing Safety Strategy, and particularly low-cost, high-impact initiatives at passive level crossings.”
The Improve Train Lighting and Level Crossing Safety Group, made up of 12 families who have lost loved ones in rail crossing incidents, has been campaigning for change for many years.
Lara Jensen is among those pushing for change, after her brother and two of his friends were killed on July 8, 2000, when their vehicle was struck by an unlit train at a passive level crossing in WA’s wheatbelt region.
Of the 12 families that form the group, half lost loved ones who were driving trucks when they were hit by trains at passive level crossings.
The group has also welcomed CBH’s recent announcement. “However, this safety lighting improvement is not before time and represents only one of several improvements that need to be made. Improved visibility for wagons is also essential,” said Jensen.
“Our families will continue to call on all rail operators to install adequate side lighting on wagons, containers and carriages as unlit rolling stock also represents a serious hazard for the regional motorist. We note that CBH has trialled some improvements to the side lighting of wagons, but we implore CBH to implement improvements to wagon visibility as a matter of urgency.
“Alarmingly, crash statistics from the Australasian Centre for Rail Innovation (ACRI) freight train visibility report reveal that of the 98 collisions that have occurred between trains and vehicles at passive crossings between 2015-2021 – 32 collisions occurred at night with rolling stock (33 per cent) and 55 collisions occurred at passive crossings with rolling stock (56 per cent) day and night combined.”