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undefinedWhen a commercial vehicle driver gets a ticket for a railroad crossing violation, they cannot simply pay the fine. A railroad coring violation is a DOT FMCSA “serious offense.”

Why Commercial Vehicle Drivers Cannot Afford to Plead Guilty to a Railroad Crossing Violation 

There is a caveat to the railroad crossing violation conviction as a serious offense. Typically, the FMCSA allows a commercial vehicle driver a second chance when they get a serious offense conviction within three years of the first conviction.

However, with a railroad crossing violation, the first conviction leads to a 60-day driver disqualification by the DOT FMCSA and a second conviction, 120 days. A third within three years of the first will result in a one-year driver disqualification. 

The truth is that some novice commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders have forgotten what actions will lead to a railroad crossing violation. They had to know at least some to get their CDL because it is part of their CDL testing.  

Section 2 of the DMV 2019-2021 CA Commercial Driver Handbook.pdf, Subsection 2.15, Railroad-Highway Crossings tells a driver everything they need to know about actions at the crossing to pass their test and not get cited with a railroad crossing violation. However, after months on the road, many drivers forget the basics and get ticketed.

CA has some strict rules for commercial drivers at a railroad crossing. That “stop, look, and listen” adage we learned in school still applies at railroad crossings, but for commercial drivers, it’s just the beginning.

It is almost impossible to judge the distance and speed of a train at the crossing, so caution is the best approach. It is estimated that a tractor-trailer takes up to 18 seconds to cross a train track. Therefore, the driver should ensure the tracks are clear on both sides, and they can get across without shifting gears or stopping. Either could be fatal. 

Often before the railroad crossing, you will see round yellow warning signs or street markings that warn of a railroad crossing ahead. No passing is allowed beyond the signs or street markings, and you must use your four-way emergency flashers to warn other drivers.

Fifteen mph is the maximum speed for a commercial vehicles including tractor-trailers, school buses, and charter buses within 100 feet of the railroad crossing. The drivers of commercial vehicles carrying hazardous materials (HM) and all passenger vehicles must stop at the limit line before the tracks, at least 15 feet from the tracks but no more than 50 feet if there is no limit line regardless of the presence of warning signals or gates.    

When the lights are flashing, you  must stop whether the gate is down or not. You may proceed after you are sure there is no train coming in either direction. 

Your best bet to avoid a railroad crossing violation is to re-read section two of the Commercial Driver’s Handbook periodically, and always apply the rules as a habit. 

A Railroad Crossing Violation Is a DOT FMCSA Serious Offense

A railroad crossing violation is a DOT FMCSA “serious offense,” and a conviction will lead to an immediate 60-day driver disqualification, unlike other serious offenses which give you a second chance. Therefore, you must avoid a railroad crossing violation or conviction. When you get a ticket, regardless of how careful you were, consult a CA traffic attorney.  

Need Help with a Railroad Crossing Violation in Kings County as a Commercial Vehicle Driver?

Commercial vehicle drivers should call Bigger & Harman (661) 349-9300 for legal advice about any traffic ticket. However, a railroad crossing violation can be particularly devastating to a CDL holder’s career. HM and charter bus drivers who get a railroad crossing violation have no choice but to dispute the ticket in Hanford, CA, or start preparing for another career. 

We offer an initial consultation by email to make it convenient for commercial drivers to explain their circumstances and keep driving while we resolve the ticket. 



The 2019-2021 CA Commercial Driver Handbook.pdf

The FMCSA CFR 49 Part 383.51Driver Disqualifications

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