Safety Advice

Heavy vehicles

A collision between a heavy vehicle and a train at a level crossing poses the biggest risk to human life in a road accident.

If a truck or bus collides with a passenger train, it could be catastrophic. These types of collisions are also more likely to derail a train and cause the greatest damage to road and railway infrastructure.

Since 2000 there have been more than 46 collisions between heavy vehicles and trains in New Zealand.

There have also been more than 340 near collisions reported by train drivers in the past 10 years. In many of these cases flashing lights and bells or barriers were activated at the time.Near collisions can have a traumatic effect both on the drivers of heavy vehicles and on train drivers.

Driving Rules for Heavy Vehicles (from the NZ Road Code)

The following rules apply to all heavy vehicle drivers, including those carrying dangerous goods, large passenger service vehicles and ALL school buses (regardless of their size).

At railway level crossings controlled by red flashing lights or barriers, you must:

  • come to a complete stop when flashing lights have started flashing and:
  • not proceed until the lights stop flashing, the barriers have lifted and the line is clear of trains.

If the signals are not activated then there is no requirement to stop, however drivers should still apply safe driving skills and look for trains to ensure the line is clear.

When approaching a level crossing controlled by a “stop” sign (or where there is no “give way” sign), you must:

  • come to a complete stop clear of the line where you can see in both directions along the line;
  • look for trains; and
  • only proceed over the crossing if there are no trains approaching. 

At level crossings controlled by a “give way” sign, you must:

  • slow down and prepare to stop;
  • look for trains in both directions along the line;
  • only proceed if there are no trains approaching.

BUT: you must always come to a complete stop at a level crossing if there is no signals or barrier arms and:

  • You are carrying dangerous goods of class 1 (other than small packages of explosives as specified in The Dangerous Goods Rule, section 2.5)
  • You are carrying dangerous goods of class 2.1 or 3 in quantities of 250 litres or more.
  • You are carrying dangerous goods of class 2.1 or 3 in a tankwagon, portable tank or container for bulk quantities.
  • You are carrying passengers in a large passenger service vehicle.
  • You are carrying school children in a school bus (of any size).


If there are two tracks, there could be two trains coming. Always look in both directions for trains.
Never attempt to beat a train over the crossing – trains are usually travelling faster than they appear.Get into the practice of turning off radios and winding down windows when approaching a level crossing.

Stacking distances

It is important to have a good understanding of the length of your vehicle to understand how much room there is for your vehicle on the other side of the crossing.

Never enter a level crossing if you are unsure whether there is enough space on the other side. Always err on the side of caution.

Many collisions occur because the back of the vehicle is left hanging on the tracks.

Over dimension and over weight loads

Information about permit applications for operators of over dimension and over weight loads can be downloaded from the KiwiRail website here.


If you notice a problem with a level crossing or are stuck on a level crossing call the Train Control Emergency Number 0800 808 400. Please note this number is only to be used in emergency situations.

This information is available in this a PDF file for organisations or individuals who wish to circulate this information more widely.



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