Railroad News

Authorities Seek Scapegoat For $2.3 Million Derailment A $30 Sign Could Have Prevented

(Leoni Township, Michigan – May 2, 2012)

The driver of a semi-trailer truck whose rig got hung-up on a high profile grade crossing in Leoni Township, MI that lacked a “Low Ground Clearance” warning sign, only to have a Chicago-bound Amtrak train carrying 68 passengers hit the truck and derail in February, injuring 10 of those on board and costing $2.3 million in damages, is fighting a $296 ticket issued by the Blackman/Leoni Police Dept. for his failure to comply with a non-existent sign warning of the crossing’s condition.

Truck driver David Zimmer says he will “fight the ticket to the end,” because he was not guilty of anything, rather charging that Jackson County, MI transportation dept. failed to erect a sign that would have warned him against attempting to take his 18-wheeler loaded with oil field equipment across the humped crossing of Portage Road and Norfolk Southern railroad tracks.

Reports from both Amtrak and Norfolk Southern posted on the Federal Railroad Administration’s Office of Safety Analysis webpage Wednesday said the $2.3 million included $2.2 million in railroad equipment, $37,000 in track damage and $50,000 for the 18-wheeler and its load.

Meanwhile, RoadTrafficSigns.com lists the cost of one W10-5 “Low Ground Clearance” warning sign, in compliance with the mandates of the Uniform Code Of Traffic Control Devices in “engineer grade” as $32.15, with discounts for each increment of five signs. One properly placed sign would have steered Zimmer and his rig to a crossing less likely to cause the truck to become hung-up on the crossing.

Maybe transportation and railroad officials never heard of the old adage that advises “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”