Ray Gompf talks rail safety for professional truckers

Tomorrow marks the start of Expocam, Canada’s National Truck Show (April 16-18, 2015), so this week’s blog post is focused on the importance of rail safety for professional truck drivers.

To get the scoop on what truckers can do to stay alive when they encounter train tracks, we caught up with trucking expert Ray Gompf. Ray has over 40 years experience in the professional trucking industry and has been an avid supporter of Operation Lifesaver for over a decade.

PTAG Ray Gompf

Why do you think working with Operation Lifesaver and spreading the message of rail safety is important?

I started working with Operation Lifesaver more than 10 years ago, and the efforts we put forth in the earlier years of that decade provided meaningful results. There have been approximately 40 truck/train collisions each year for far too many decades. The work we did in the early part of the 2000s brought that number down to the mid to low 20s. In later years we had fewer resources and almost immediately the incident rate went back up to 40, proving that with a good deal of effort, we can reduce, and keep reduced, the number of incidents.

How many incidents have you encountered with truckers at a railway crossing?

When I was in high school, a classmate of mine, his father and younger brother, were killed on a rail crossing on their farm lane. It was a defining moment for me personally. It has made me stop and think every time I cross a railway track. It heightened my awareness.

I’ve seen two other incidents that involved vehicles colliding with trains but not commercial vehicles, and fortunately neither involved a fatality. I saw one incident of stupidity where a car passed a whole line of vehicles waiting for an approaching train. That car went under the barrier and squeaked through. There was no contact between this car and the train but I’m sure there was no room for extra paint on the car.

What are the top 5 rail safety tips/best practices you would like to share with professional long-haul truckers?

  1. Be aware of your surroundings. Think. Railway tracks mean trains. Train time is anytime.
  2. Never trust man-made warning devices. Failures can and do happen (although not often).
  3. Slow down and be satisfied with yourself that no danger is present before crossing.
  4. Learn there IS a speed limit for all rail crossings and obey it.
  5. When on loading/unloading docks that are shared with rail cars, make sure that no rail cars are to be brought in during your stay at the dock.

What can long haul truckers expect in the aftermath of an incident?

The resources in the aftermath of an incident are limited to three words: “You Are Fired”. And those words are only spoken if you’re fortunate enough to survive.