Police charges against NT truck driver show need for a zero tolerance approach to level crossing safety

The details of police charges against a truck driver who caused a huge collision with a full-laden freight train in Katherine in June 2023 reinforce the need for a new approach to level crossing safety.


According to NT Police, the truck driver failed to observe the pre-warning light, level crossing, and boom gates as he approached the crossing.

Faced with insufficient room to bring the truck to a controlled stop, the driver attempted to accelerate across the tracks, resulting in a collision with a train.

The truck driver has now been issued a summons to appear in court charges that include recklessly endangering life/serious harm, reckless damage to property, driving dangerously, careless driving, driving using a handheld mobile device, and entering a level crossing when warning lights were active.

Police will allege the driver was distracted using a handheld mobile device immediately before the collision, in which four people were injured (including the truck driver).

National Level Crossing Safety Summit

Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) Assistant National Secretary Shayne Kummerfeld today said the details of the charges were extremely concerning for workers in the rail industry.

“When stop signs, flashing lights and boom gates still don’t stop people from driving through boom gates, it’s clear that the message on level crossing safety just isn’t getting through.

“The collision in Katherine could have been much worse. Luckily, everyone escaped with their lives – that time.  But as we saw at Bindarrah on New Year’s Eve, these collisions can be fatal.”

Shayne Kummerfeld said that Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) statistics showed there were, on average, over 500 ‘near misses’ at level crossings every year.

“Rail workers support the call for an urgent national level crossing summit.

“The current approach is not working, so we need to look at ramping up grade separations, stronger penalties for people who encroach on rail corridors, and other warning technologies.

“Everything needs to be on the table.”