Network Rail is targeting professional drivers in an effort to help reduce the number of incidents at level crossings.
Level crossings in Britain are among the safest in Europe but almost a fifth of the 142 near-misses that occurred at level crossings in 2013 included a vehicle driven in a professional capacity – such as a lorry, van, bus or taxi - putting the life of the driver as well as others at risk.
The programme involves Network Rail’s 100 level crossing managers, who are based all over Britain, engaging with local employers whose workforce includes a significant number of drivers.
Network Rail is rolling out this programme among its own driving fleet, which comprises approximately 7,400 road vehicles.
Julia Territt, head of fleet at Network Rail, said “Safety is our top priority and with one of the biggest fleets of road vehicles in the country, we want our drivers to lead by example.
“ As well as ensuring that drivers are aware of the Highway Code’s requirements on level crossing usage, such as the need to stop at amber lights, we want all professional drivers to be aware that misusing a level crossing not only puts their life at risk but also their livelihood.”
Network Rail has produced a range of pack materials, which employers can distribute to their drivers and/or include in training packs.
It is also working with companies to deliver bespoke interactive presentations and forums, where it will work with drivers to reinforce good level crossing use practice.
The sessions will remind drivers that although it may seem an inconvenience to have to wait at a crossing, especially when they are trying to meet delivery deadlines, the stops are in place to save lives – theirs as well as those on trains and other road users.
As well as the risk to life, the misuse of a level crossing also poses a threat to the career of a professional driver as it is a criminal offence to misuse a level crossing.
This year has seen the successful prosecution of drivers for careless or dangerous driving at level crossings. For example, in Bugle, Cornwall a delivery van driver was prosecuted, resulting in a fine as well as incurring costs and penalty points on his licence. The driver was also suspended from his job pending the outcome of an internal investigation.
In Rossington, Doncaster, a driver found guilty of dangerous driving lost his licence for 12 months and will need to take an extended test in order to get his licence back.
The message is clear, says Network Rail, for a professional driver, a prosecution for the misuse of a level crossing could have a devastating effect on his or her career.
The programme launch coincides with ILCAD – International Level Crossing Awareness Day – a global initiative supported by 45 countries to raise public awareness on the safety factors and dangers posed by misuse at level crossings.