Section 21 (2) of the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 (TSI Act) empowers the ATSB to discontinue an investigation into a transport safety matter at any time. Section 21 (3) of the TSI Act requires the ATSB to publish a statement setting out the reasons for discontinuing an investigation. The statement is published as a report in accordance with section 25 of the TSI Act, capturing information from the investigation up to the time of discontinuance.
Overview of the investigation
On 9 August 2022, the ATSB commenced an investigation into a level crossing collision between a truck and an Aurizon freight train (68A3) at Carrington near Goondiwindi, Queensland.
The truck was a 1996 Ford Louisville prime mover, coupled to a tipping semi-trailer. The combined unladed weight of the truck and trailer combination was 15.8 t. At the time of the collision, the truck was empty and on a return trip from the removal and disposal of waste from a cotton gin on the same property. The truck driver was an experienced driver that reported living locally and being familiar with the area.
Train 68A3 was an Aurizon bulk grain service, crewed by 2 drivers, that was scheduled to travel from Thallon to Fisherman Island, near Brisbane. Train 68A3 consisted of 2 locomotives with 38 loaded grain wagons. The train was 627 m in length, with a total weight of 2,371 t. The train crew involved in the collision had commenced their driving shift at Goondiwindi about 20 minutes before the collision.
At approximately 1448 local time, the truck crossed into the path of train 68A3 at occupation crossing ID 2044 at Carrington. The train collided with the truck, resulting in the derailment of the train’s leading and trailing locomotives and 8 wagons. The truck, locomotives and wagons were substantially damaged in the collision. The truck driver and both train drivers received minor injuries.
The level crossing was located about 13 km east-south-east of Goondiwindi at the 186.97 km mark. It was an unsealed occupation crossing that was not a public road and it was only intended for the exclusive use of the occupier of the private land or by people with the knowledge and agreement of the occupier. The road traffic control devices installed at the crossing consisted of ‘Stop’ signs. At the time of the accident, the signs were in a clean and serviceable condition.
The rail infrastructure at the level crossing was tangent track with minimal gradient (1 in 1,320). The track speed for train 68A3 at the level crossing was 60 km/h.
The ATSB attended the accident site, interviewed relevant parties and reviewed recorded information from the lead locomotive’s event recorder and the network control centre. The ATSB’s review of the preliminary evidence collected revealed:
- Although the truck driver likely stopped at the level crossing, they did not identify the approaching train and proceeded across the crossing into the path of the train.
- The sighting distances from both sides of the level crossing provided time for safe crossing.
- There was no evidence of the level crossing being poorly maintained.
- There were no mechanical issues, overspeed, or mishandling identified with the train.
- There was no evidence of health problems, fatigue or drug/alcohol impairment of either the train drivers or truck driver.
- The lead locomotive event recording confirmed that the head and ditch lights was turned on.
- At about 6 seconds prior to the collision, the train horn was sounded for a sustained time (about 4 seconds). The truck driver reported not hearing the train’s horn.
- The train was travelling at about 55 km/h at the time of collision.
Reasons for the discontinuation
It is uncommon for a level crossing collision where a train collides with a vehicle on a crossing for there to be a significant derailment of the train. However, based on a review of the available evidence, the ATSB considered it was unlikely that further investigation would identify any systemic safety issues or important safety lessons related to the level crossing or the vehicles involved in this collision.
On 12 August 2021, the ATSB commenced a safety study (RS-2021-001) to examine level crossing collisions involving trains and heavy road vehicles in Australia. Evidence obtained from the 9 August 2022 accident, and other related occurrences, will be examined as part of that safety study. Consequently, the ATSB has discontinued this investigation.
 An occupation crossing is a level crossing provided for a private roadway, generally between 2 parcels of land with the same landowner.
 A track segment without any curves.
 Research and previous accident investigations have shown that train horns, although an important safety device, are not always heard by drivers involved in level crossing accidents due to a variety of factors (for example, US National Transportation Safety Board 1998, Safety at passive grade crossings, Volume 1: Analysis, Safety study NTSB/SS-98/02).