(Herman, Minnesota – January 28, 2014)
The equation of one train, one highway vehicle and one dangerous, unguarded crossing once again produced the too-often-tragic result of another needless death Tuesday afternoon at about 2:00 P.M. at the intersection of BNSF railroad tracks and 3rd Street in Herman, MN.
Semi-truck driver Bradley Vold, 47, of Graceville, MN, was found dead in the wreckage of his truck tractor, which was separated from its semi-trailer and carried 1,500 feet north of the BNSF/3rd Street crossing by the northbound BNSF freight train, one of a daily average of nearly a dozen trains that cross there at top allowable speeds of 40 mph – the speed the train was allegedly traveling at, according to media reports and Grant County Sheriff’s Office personnel. The victim’s vehicle was eastbound, and the stopped train caused the closure of major highway routes, including Minnesota Route 27, in the area.
The crossing has only standard, passive railroad cross-buck signs which can only indicate the existence of railroad tracks, but have no capability whatsoever of warning motorists of approaching trains that only properly functioning flashing lights, bells and crossing gates can. A grove of trees impairs the view of northbound trains as drivers approach from the west, the exact quadrant in which the victim was driving.
It is virtually certain that lights and gates would have prevented this incident. Both BNSF and Operation Lifesaver know lights and gates are the most effective type of protection at railroad crossings. Studies that have been conducted over fifty years ago confirm that lights can gates offer the ability to drastically reduce the number of vehicle/train accidents by as much as 96%.