Is it illegal to stop on railroad tracks, here in MA?

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Re: Is it illegal to stop on railroad tracks, here in MA?

Postby Diverging Route » Thu Mar 21, 2013 8:11 pm

I have a current MA CDL, endorsed for passengers, and school buses. Here is the regulation, verbatim, from the MA RMV CDL Drivers' Manual:

Stop at RR crossings. Stop your bus between 15 and 50 feet before railroad crossings. Listen and look in both directions for trains. You should open your forward door if it improves your ability to see or hear an approaching train. Before crossing after a train has passed, make sure there isn't another train coming in the other direction on other tracks. If your bus has a manual transmission, never change gears while crossing tracks.


Note that the regulation does not mention if there are passengers or not on the bus, so it implies all buses, at all times. As a former bus driver trainer, I notice often that while buses do stop, they usually do so right up to the rail; much closer than the minimum 15 feet in the regulation. If you'd like to see this in action, check out the Grand Junction crossing on Mass Ave. in Cambridge (at MIT). MBTA and private contractor buses cross there every few minutes. I've stood there and seen ten buses in a row make their stops (or rolling stops) right on top of the nearest rail.

When I taught bus drivers, I explained they should not proceed from their full stop until there was room for three bus lengths on the other side. It sounds like a lot, but it leaves no room for error if the vehicle in front of you starts to move then stops short and leaves you (and your bus) hanging too far back.
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Re: Is it illegal to stop on railroad tracks, here in MA?

Postby ExCon90 » Fri Mar 22, 2013 1:32 pm

This might be an opportune time to ask a question I've sometimes wondered about: Is it common practice to post on the dashboard or other prominent location where the driver can't help seeing it "The length of this vehicle is [xx] feet"? In at least one crossing collision in the past the driver was operating a different vehicle which was longer than the one she customarily drove, and there wasn't enough room for all of it on the far side of the crossing.
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Re: Is it illegal to stop on railroad tracks, here in MA?

Postby MBTA1016 » Fri Mar 22, 2013 1:38 pm

If you're asking about cdl requirements drivers have to know how long the vehicle is. Most trailers are between 48-53feet. I have seen box trailers with a 53ft mark on the sides.
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Re: Is it illegal to stop on railroad tracks, here in MA?

Postby 3rdrail » Fri Mar 22, 2013 1:47 pm

Also, with trucks and other big vehicles, height is a more critical value for safety under overpasses, etc. and that is a common measurement to be seen on the dash. Another number might confuse.
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Re: Is it illegal to stop on railroad tracks, here in MA?

Postby ExCon90 » Fri Mar 22, 2013 2:44 pm

I was thinking about school buses, as mentioned in the preceding post -- maybe I should have made that clearer. Obviously a posting on the dashboard would do nothing to tell a tractor driver how long his trailer is. (For that, I believe trailers have a mirror-image legend on the left front that is visible in the tractor's rear-view mirror.) School buses, however, come in a variety of lengths. And the height has nothing to do with stopping on railroad crossings.
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Re: Is it illegal to stop on railroad tracks, here in MA?

Postby Backshophoss » Sat Mar 23, 2013 12:38 am

MassDOT has/had a requirement that a 53 ft trailer had the number's 5+3 on it,it was for a permit that is/was required
to allow 53ft trailers on state routes as I remember it. The numbers have to be visible on both sides of the trailer.
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Re: Is it illegal to stop on railroad tracks, here in MA?

Postby MBTA1016 » Sat Mar 23, 2013 9:33 pm

Ex-con, truckers should know the length of the trailer to make sure the end isn't hanging over the row where there's a risk of a collision that could be diasterous. That's why I mentioned the length if trailers. I should've explained why I mentioned that.
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Re: Is it illegal to stop on railroad tracks, here in MA?

Postby ExCon90 » Mon Mar 25, 2013 3:16 pm

Mbta fan wrote:Ex-con, truckers should know the length of the trailer to make sure the end isn't hanging over the row where there's a risk of a collision that could be diasterous. That's why I mentioned the length if trailers. I should've explained why I mentioned that.

I'm tempted to say that 53-footers are so common nowadays that a driver certainly ought to know how long the trailer is -- but on the other hand there's a 12'-6" railroad bridge near me, with signs prominently posted on the approaches, and it's hard to believe how many bridge strikes there are. Amtrak had to mount a heavy I-beam on the abutments on each side, parallel to the bridge, so the trailers hit that instead of the bridge. You hardly ever see a trailer lower than 13'-6" nowadays (unless it's a flatbed), and still, drivers don't seem to know a low bridge when they come to one.
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Re: Is it illegal to stop on railroad tracks, here in MA?

Postby MBTA1016 » Mon Mar 25, 2013 5:45 pm

It doesn't help if they're from out of town either, no GPS I know of tells u how high a bridge is. There's actually a bridge not to far from me in walpole that gets hit by trucks often. It's much harder to get it out then u think as well. On each side of the bridge the road is narrow and there's a blind corner right after u go under the bridge. I hate it and its just dangerous even in a small car nevermind an SUV or bigger. If anyone knows plimpton st in walpole u know what I'm talking about. The only reason 18 wheelers get stuck is they trust google or someone else for the route, and its a shortcut from east st to 1A.
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Re: Is it illegal to stop on railroad tracks, here in MA?

Postby Backshophoss » Tue Mar 26, 2013 12:14 am

As far as I understand it,there is not a truck routing GPS system as of yet,routing software used by the Major Fleets will not always
have the Updates needed to route away from restricted routes and low bridges,Even the trucker's road atlas may not have been updated
when printed,the "new" drivers are so GPS dependant now.
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Re: Is it illegal to stop on railroad tracks, here in MA?

Postby Rbts Stn » Tue Mar 26, 2013 9:28 am

Backshophoss wrote:As far as I understand it,there is not a truck routing GPS system as of yet,routing software used by the Major Fleets will not always
have the Updates needed to route away from restricted routes and low bridges,Even the trucker's road atlas may not have been updated
when printed,the "new" drivers are so GPS dependant now.


This is a product that claims (claimed?) it took height and road rules into consideration: http://www.amazon.com/Cobra-GPSM-7700-W ... roduct_top
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