[Federal Register Volume 63, Number 146 (Thursday, July 30, 1998)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 40691-40694]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 98-20209]



Federal Highway Administration

49 CFR Part 392

[FHWA Docket No. FHWA-98-4202]
RIN 2125-AD75

Railroad Grade Crossing Safety

AGENCY: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), DOT.

ACTION: Notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM); request for comments.


SUMMARY: The Hazardous Materials Transportation Authorization Act of 
1994 requires the amendment of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety 
Regulations (FMCSRs) to prohibit operators of commercial motor vehicles 
(CMVs) from driving onto a railroad grade crossing unless there is 
sufficient space to drive completely through the crossing without 
stopping. The FHWA, therefore, proposes to make this amendment which is 
intended to reduce the incidence of collisions between trains and CMVs. 
Comments and information are requested about railroad grade crossings 
that lack sufficient clearance for some CMVs to be driven completely 
through the crossing before being required to stop by a stop sign, 
highway traffic signal, or similar traffic control device. The FHWA 
intends to have a public meeting in Washington, D.C. during the comment 
period to discuss this subject matter.

DATES: Data and information concerning railroad-highway crossings from 
State agencies must be received no later than September 28, 1998. 
Comments from motor carriers and other interested parties must be 
received no later than November 27, 1998.

ADDRESSES: All signed, written comments should refer to the docket 
number that appears at the top of this document and must be submitted 
to Docket Clerk, U.S. DOT Dockets, Room PL-401, Federal Highway 
Administration, 400 Seventh Street, SW., Washington, DC 20590. All 
comments received will be available for examination at the above 
address from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., e.t., Monday through Friday, 
except Federal holidays. Those desiring notification of receipt of 
comments must include a self-addressed, stamped postcard/envelope.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. David M. Lehrman, Office of Motor 
Carrier Research and Standards, (202) 366-0994, or Mr. Charles E. 
Medalen, Office of the Chief Counsel, (202) 366-1354, Federal Highway 
Administration, Department of Transportation, 400 Seventh Street, SW., 
Washington, DC 20590. Office hours are from 7:45 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., 
e.t., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.


Electronic Access

    Internet users can access all comments received by the U.S. DOT 
Dockets, Room PL-401, by using the universal resource locator (URL): 
http://dms.dot.gov. It is available 24 hours each day, 365 days each 
year. Please follow the instructions online for more information and 
    An electronic copy of this document may be downloaded using a modem 

[[Page 40692]]

suitable communications software from the Government Printing Office's 
Electronic Bulletin Board Service at (202) 512-1661. Internet users may 
reach the Federal Register's home page at: http://www.nara.gov/fedreg 
and the Government Printing Office's database at: http://


    The purpose of driving rules concerning railroad grade crossings is 
to prevent the disastrous consequences which result when trains collide 
with commercial motor vehicles. These consequences are particularly 
horrendous when the commercial motor vehicle is transporting passengers 
or hazardous materials. On August 26, 1994, the President signed the 
Hazardous Materials Transportation Authorization Act of 1994 (Pub. L. 
103-311, 108 Stat. 1673)(the Act). Section 112 of the Act requires the 
Secretary of Transportation to amend the FMCSRs to prohibit the driver 
of any CMV from driving the motor vehicle onto a highway-railroad grade 
crossing without having sufficient space to drive completely through 
the crossing without stopping.'' In response to the Act, the FHWA 
proposes to amend Sec. 392.12 of the FMCSRs to implement this statutory 
    Some railroad grade crossings, however, lack sufficient clearance 
for some CMVs to drive completely through before stopping for a stop 
sign or other traffic control device. For example, a railroad grade 
crossing with 12.2 meters (40 feet) between the tracks and a stop sign 
could not accommodate a tractor-trailer combination which is 18.3 
meters (60 feet) long. The FHWA requests that State agencies submit 
data on the number and locations of such railroad grade crossings 
within their respective States. In doing so, State agencies should 
identify the railroad grade crossings where CMVs with the longest legal 
length under applicable State law could not comply with the proposed 
rule. The FHWA especially wants to determine whether any such crossings 
are present on the National Network (NN) where the operation of CMV 
combinations with two 8.5-meter (28-foot) trailers, or even longer 
combinations, is permitted. Information about reasonable access routes 
used by these vehicles in traveling to or from the NN would also be 
useful. States that allow longer combination vehicles affected by the 
freeze imposed by the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act 
of 1991 should make particular efforts to determine the effect of this 
proposed rule on those vehicles, which are prohibited from using routes 
not in actual, lawful use under State law or regulation on or before 
June 1, 1991.
    The rule, if promulgated, could impact the allowable routing of 
CMVs. Motor carriers and drivers would have to consider all railroad 
grade crossings which would be encountered during a trip. If the CMV 
driver could not use a railroad grade crossing without violating 
Sec. 392.12, an alternative routing which avoids that crossing would 
have to be selected. The scenario would be similar where there is 
little clearance between a railroad grade crossing and a highway 
traffic signal. Upon approaching such a crossing, a CMV driver could 
stop short of the tracks and wait until the signal permitted the 
movement of traffic before attempting to drive through the crossing. 
Signal timing might have to be adjusted to allow enough time for the 
CMV to move completely through the crossing, given the time necessary 
to accelerate from a complete stop and/or the delay caused by the queue 
of other motor vehicles. The proposed rule would also prohibit the 
driving of a CMV onto a railroad grade crossing when stopped motor 
vehicle(s) prevent the driving of the CMV completely through the 
crossing without stopping. Similarly, changes in the location of 
traffic signs could alleviate the problems of insufficient clearance.
    The FHWA believes that at least some motor carriers are aware of 
the approximate frequency with which their drivers encounter a railroad 
grade crossing with a nearby stop sign or other traffic control device 
that prevents driving completely through the crossing without stopping, 
or that they could obtain this information without substantial effort. 
The FHWA requests these motor carriers to assess the impact of the 
proposed rule upon their operations and advise the agency of this 
assessment. In addition, the FHWA will consider any recommendation to 
implement the statutory prohibition that would minimize the 
difficulties and burdens upon the operations of motor carriers while 
reducing the likelihood of collisions between trains and CMVs. Physical 
infrastructure improvements may provide an alternative in some 
situations. During the public input process to the Secretary's Task 
Force on Grade Crossing Safety and in deliberations of the Task Force's 
Technical Work Group, a number of infrastructure improvements were 
presented. The proposed improvements included physical relocation of 
the roadway or railroad, construction of escape or merge lanes, 
replacement of signs with traffic signals, adjusting signal timing, and 
interconnecting signals. State and local agencies are requested to 
comment on the benefits, feasibility and impact of the infrastructure 
    As explained more fully below, the Department of Transportation has 
worked with States to help improve safety at railroad-highway 
crossings. One recommendation of the Secretary's Grade Crossing Safety 
Task Force was that ``State and local highway authorities should 
initiate engineering studies to determine if safety improvements are 
warranted at grade crossings near highway-highway intersections where 
there is no interconnection and where there is limited storage 
distance. Emphasis should be given to locations with STOP sign control 
at the highway-highway intersection, where storage space is less than 
required to accommodate the longest legal vehicle permitted to use the 
highway, and where accident potential is greater due to high volumes of 
highway and/or rail traffic.'' In response to this recommendation, 
States have begun to develop databases that, among other things, 
indicate where crossings with storage distance problems may exist.
    The FHWA requests that State agencies submit data and information 
concerning railroad-highway crossings within their jurisdiction by 
September 28, 1998. The FHWA also intends, as part of this rulemaking, 
to contact its State partners to obtain the latest information 
available. The FHWA will place the information obtained from the States 
in the docket. Motor carriers and others interested in this rulemaking 
are asked to check the information placed in the docket and, by 
November 27, 1998, to advise the FHWA of the impact they believe the 
proposal contained in this NPRM will have on motor carrier operations 
and highway and rail safety generally.
    The FHWA believes that as a result of the work done by States in 
this area over the past several years, much information is available 
regarding the number and location of railroad-highway crossings that 
present storage problems, especially for longer commercial motor 
vehicles. However, if such information is not available or is submitted 
late to the docket, or if the information reveals an unexpectedly large 
number of railroad-highway crossings presenting storage problems, the 
FHWA may extend the period for comment to this docket to enable 
interested parties to comment to the docket and to provide the FHWA 
with the information and time necessary to effectively and reasonably 
implement section 112.
    FHWA and the Federal Railroad Administration request comments on

[[Page 40693]]

the advisability of making provision for retaining such information 
within the U.S. DOT/AAR National Highway-Rail Crossing Inventory thus 
allowing State DOTs the option of keeping such data current and 
    In order to fully understand the context in which this NPRM arose, 
it is necessary to review Department of Transportation efforts to 
address the issue of railroad grade crossing safety.

DOT Initiatives on Grade Crossing Safety

    Shortly after the collision of a commuter train with a school bus 
in Fox River Grove, Illinois which resulted in seven deaths on October 
25, 1995, the Secretary of Transportation established the U.S. DOT 
Grade Crossing Safety Task Force to look into grade crossing safety. 
The Task Force was composed of representatives from four modal 
administrations within the Department: the Federal Highway 
Administration (FHWA), the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the 
Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the National Highway Traffic 
Safety Administration (NHTSA), and staff from the Office of 
Intermodalism. The Task Force was responsible for building upon the 
Department's 1994 Rail-Highway Crossing Safety Action Plan. The Task 
Force proceeded to rigorously review the decision making process for 
designing, constructing, maintaining, and operating railroad-highway 
grade crossings.
    The Task Force solicited information from knowledgeable people in 
both public and private sectors who had expertise in areas relevant to 
the inquiry. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which 
investigated the Fox River Grove collision, also provided a resource 
person to assist the Task Force.
    On March 1, 1996, the Task Force delivered a report to the 
Secretary entitled ``Accidents That Shouldn't Happen.'' The report 
focused on 24 long-term and short-term recommendations broken down into 
the following problem areas:

a. Interconnected Signals and Storage
b. High Profile Crossings
c. Light-Rail Crossing Issues
d. Special Vehicle Operations and Information
e. Available Storage Space for Motor Vehicles Between Highway-Rail 
Crossings and Adjacent Highway-Highway Intersections (Storage Space)

    The report concluded that ``improved highway-rail grade crossing 
safety depends upon better cooperation, communication, and education 
among responsible parties if accidents and fatalities are to be reduced 
significantly.'' The Task Force proposed to reconvene one year later to 
evaluate progress in implementation of the recommendations. The report 
also made a long-term recommendation that the FHWA and the FRA convene 
a technical working group (TWG), to evaluate current standards and a 
variety of technical issues. A TWG was immediately formed consisting of 
government agencies, industry groups, highway and rail associations, 
safety advocacy groups, and law enforcement associations. The TWG 
proceeded to evaluate current standards and guidelines regarding a 
variety of grade crossing technical issues.
    The TWG met three times during 1996-1997. It presented 35 
recommendations to the Task Force, including the following suggestions 
for the FHWA on standards/guidelines for vehicle storage and other 
grade crossing safety issues: the identification of focal points to 
coordinate railroad safety issues in each State; the initiation of 
regional State/railroad conferences; and the creation of an advance 
warning sign for motorists approaching high-profile crossings.
    Recommendations regarding the issue of interconnected signals and 
storage were implemented in guidance issued by FHWA Executive Director, 
Anthony R. Kane, to all field offices. Mr. Kane urged that FHWA field 
staff visit their State and local counterparts to ensure that the 
recommendations were implemented.
    As a result, all States with operating railroads informally 
designated a central focal point for railroad crossing safety issues 
and provided the name of the contact to the FHWA and/or the FRA.
    The Implementation Report of the U.S. DOT Grade Crossing Safety 
Task Force was submitted to Secretary Slater on June 1, 1997. It 
documents the close coordination achieved through the cooperative 
efforts of four operating administrations on the Grade Crossing Safety 
Task Force (FHWA, FRA, FTA, and NHTSA).
    The Department has printed this report as a formal U.S. DOT 
publication. The FHWA, FRA, and Office of Intermodalism have 
distributed copies to U.S. DOT headquarters and field offices, State 
DOTs, State emergency service providers, rail safety organizations 
(e.g., Operation Lifesaver), and industry associations (e.g., 
Association of American Railroads).
    The Department has distributed this report to all the groups and 
individuals that participated in the Technical Working Group. The 
Department urges those agencies, organizations, and other professional 
societies to take steps to formally endorse this report and implement 
its recommendations.
    The nexus between the actions cited above and the current 
rulemaking lies in the common goal of reducing the incidence of 
collisions between trains and commercial motor vehicles. The Department 
is committed to using the best available resources to targeting safety 
hazards at railroad crossings throughout the United States. For that 
reason, this rule proposes that operators of commercial motor vehicles 
be prohibited from driving onto a railroad grade crossing unless there 
is sufficient space to drive completely through the crossing without 

Rulemaking Analyses and Notices

    All comments received before the close of business on the comment 
closing date indicated above will be considered and will be available 
for examination in the docket room at the above address. Comments 
received after the comment closing date will be filed in the docket and 
will be considered to the extent practicable, but the FHWA may issue a 
final rule at any time after the close of the comment period. In 
addition to late comments, the FHWA will also continue to file in the 
docket relevant information that becomes available after the comment 
closing date, and interested persons should continue to examine the 
docket for new material.

Executive Order 12866 (Regulatory Planning and Review) and DOT 
Regulatory Policies and Procedures

    The FHWA has analyzed this proposed rule for the purposes of 
Executive Order 12866 and the Department of Transportation regulatory 
policies and procedures, and believes that it is a significant 
regulatory action because of the anticipated substantial public and 
congressional interest in this action.
    The FHWA anticipates that the rule could have an economic impact 
because it could trigger infrastructure changes to right-of-way or 
traffic devices or require some motor carriers to develop alternative 
routing, or operate shorter CMVs to avoid railroad grade crossings 
where the placement of a stop sign or highway traffic signal would 
prevent a driver from being able to drive completely through the 
crossing without stopping. The last alternative would increase the 
number of CMVs and drivers needed to make the same deliveries because 
truckload shipments would be split among two or more CMVs. The FHWA 
will attempt to better

[[Page 40694]]

quantify the extent of the economic impact of this proposed rule on the 
motor carrier industry through the analysis of data requested from 
State agencies on the number of such railroad grade crossings. Comments 
on the anticipated costs of complying with this proposed rule, 
especially any specific data available to States, local communities, or 
motor carriers, would be helpful. Such costs may include possible 
infrastructure changes; additional fuel cost attributable to re-
routing, the cost of purchasing or leasing shorter CMVs, and the cost 
of hiring and employing additional drivers. In addition, the FHWA 
requests comments from motor carriers about whether the rule would make 
some of their deliveries impossible or cost prohibitive.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    In compliance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601-
612), the FHWA has evaluated the effects of this proposed rule upon 
small entities. Any motor carrier, regardless of its size, is subject 
to the same driving rules which protect the safety of the motoring 
public. Because some motor carriers, including small motor carriers, 
may have to develop alternative routing as a result of this proposed 
rule, it may have an economic impact on small business entities. The 
proposed rule may have less of an economic impact upon small motor 
carriers, as a group, than large motor carriers because small motor 
carriers, as a group, tend to operate with a lower proportion of long 
or articulated CMVs than large motor carriers. Small motor carriers, 
therefore, would be required less often to develop alternative routing. 
On the other hand, the FHWA is concerned that some small motor carriers 
may have limited resources with which to make modifications to their 
operations to comply with this proposed rule.
    However, because of a lack of data the FHWA is presently unable to 
estimate how many crossings exist where a CMV driver would be unable to 
drive completely through the railroad grade crossing because the 
positioning of the stop sign or other traffic control device causes the 
driver to stop on the tracks. If the FHWA is able to obtain better 
data, the FHWA will further evaluate the degree to which infrastructure 
changes might have to be made and/or whether small motor carriers might 
have to develop alternative routing for their CMVs and the extent of 
the resulting economic impact.

Executive Order 12612 (Federalism Assessment)

    This proposed rule has been analyzed in accordance with the 
principles and criteria contained in Executive Order 12612, and it has 
been determined that this action does not have sufficient federalism 
implications to warrant the preparation of a federalism assessment. The 
rule is not intended to preempt any State law or State regulation. If 
this rule is adopted as proposed, motor carriers would continue to be 
subject to State and local traffic laws. In addition, the rule would 
impose no additional cost or burden upon any State. The rule would not 
have a significant effect upon the ability of the States to discharge 
traditional State governmental functions.

Executive Order 12372 (Intergovernmental Review)

    Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Program Number 20.217, Motor 
Carrier Safety. The regulations implementing Executive Order 12372 
regarding intergovernmental consultation on Federal programs and 
activities do not apply to this program.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    This action does not contain a collection of information 
requirement for purposes of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, 44 
U.S.C. 3501-3520.

National Environmental Policy Act

    The agency has analyzed this action for the purpose of the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321-4347) and has 
determined that this action would not have any effect on the quality of 
the environment. An environmental impact statement is, therefore, not 

Regulation Identification Number

    A regulation identification number (RIN) is assigned to each 
regulatory action listed in the Unified Agenda of Federal Regulations. 
The Regulatory Information Service Center publishes the Unified Agenda 
in April and October of each year. The RIN contained in the heading of 
this document can be used to cross reference this action with the 
Unified Agenda.

List of Subjects in 49 CFR Part 392

    Highway safety, Motor carriers.

    Issued on: July 20, 1998.
Kenneth R. Wykle,
Federal Highway Administrator.

    In consideration of the foregoing, the FHWA proposes to amend title 
49, Code of Federal Regulations, chapter III, part 392 as set forth 


    1. The authority citation for part 392 is revised to read as 

    Authority: 49 U.S.C. 31136 and 31502; sec. 112, Pub. L. 103-311, 
108 Stat. 1673, 1676; and 49 CFR 1.48.

    2. Section 392.12 is added to read as follows:

Sec. 392.12  Railroad grade crossing; sufficient space.

    A driver of a commercial motor vehicle shall not drive onto a 
railroad grade crossing without having sufficient space to drive 
completely through the crossing without stopping.

[FR Doc. 98-20209 Filed 7-29-98; 8:45 am]