Russell Murray from Australasian Railway Consultancy Services and Jason Livingstone QR National network asset manager.
Russell Murray from Australasian Railway Consultancy Services and Jason Livingstone QR National network asset manager. Courtesy QR National

High-tech safety device unveiled

QR NATIONAL has unveiled a new safety device which could help save lives.

Coinciding with Rail Safety Week, which gets underway across Australasia today, the equipment is being hailed as an innovation which could protect truck drivers from death or serious injury by preventing them from striking the 25,000 volt power lines at central Queensland rail crossings.

QR National's Vice President Network Operations Clay McDonald has welcomed the new device saying Rail Safety Week is a perfect time to start a trial.

"These power lines carry 25,000 volts and can be deadly. We're pleading with truck drivers to take the greatest care at level crossings, especially when they have a heavy vehicle carrying a high load or a vehicle with a high aerial," he said.

"We're extremely concerned that it's only a matter of time before a truck driver is killed or suffers a serious injury."

On the Central Queensland Coal Network since 1 July 2011 there have been 91 near misses recorded and 29 collisions at level crossings and QR National is joining with other rail providers around the country this week to highlight the dangers.

Mr McDonald said heavy vehicles were a particular concern.

"In 2011-12, there was a 350 per cent jump in the number of heavy vehicles hitting high voltage overhead power lines compared to 2010-11."

"These incidents not only threaten the lives of drivers and our employees but can also result in the closure of the coal system, potentially costing producers and the economy millions of dollars in lost coal exports."

The installation of over-height detection equipment is part of a multi-pronged attack by QR National to prevent level crossing accidents that includes driver education, safety upgrades and innovation, and enforcement through fines and the recovery of costs of damage caused by motorists.

Mr McDonald said the equipment worked by detecting approaching over-height vehicles and then activating flashing lights and signs to alert the driver, using messages such as "OVER HEIGHT / STOP".

CEO of the Queensland Trucking Association, Peter Garske said most drivers operated safely, but there was still a need for better awareness.

"The result of not taking enough care can be damage to the level crossing, the driver's truck, injury or worst of all, loss of life."

"Safety is a fundamental for all participants in the transport industry and we're very supportive of any initiatives that protect our drivers, their rigs and the rail infrastructure."

Clay McDonald said the message applied to all motorists approaching level crossings.

"We hope this new safety initiative will not only save lives but also the costly exercise of paying for repairs to the trucking rigs and very expensive rail infrastructure."

"This also applies to people damaging other level crossing infrastructure including boomgates."

Mr McDonald said the equipment would be trialled over the next six months at the level crossings on Ardurad Road in Blackwater and Normanby Street in Dingo, with the technology to be rolled out at other critical level crossings across the QR National rail network if proven successful.

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