When I first started driving trains, I couldn’t help draw comparisons to how I drive my car. Some train rules are the same (or very similar) to the rules of the road for cars and trucks, though the consequences for breaking them may be much more severe.
For example, if caught exceeding the speed limit by more than 10 MPH in my car, I may or may not get a speeding ticket, depending on the circumstances. But in a train, I would have my license revoked even if the speed had just reduced, and I was in the process of slowing down to the new lower speed.
However, most of the rules for driving a train aren’t that similar to cars or trucks. For example, when I first started to drive trains, and then drove my car again, I had to fight off the impulse to turn on some sort of warning bell or honk my horn when passing through intersections.
If we drove cars like trains, I imagine that a quick trip to the store would go something like this.
My Beautiful Wife: “Honey, would you run to the store and pick-up a gallon of milk?”
Even though she’s a licensed driver, like all moms, she is always over her “Hours of Service” and so she can’t actually drive anywhere. Anytime someone with a license works more than 12 hours in any given day, or more than 13 days in a row, whether they are actually driving or not, “They go Dead” as we call it. Meaning that they can’t drive until they have the prescribed rest period. Since mothers never get any rest, they are always “Dead” and can’t drive.
Our closest grocery store is Walmart, which is two miles away.
Me: “Sure, I’ll go right now. I’ll go start my pre-op if you can you come out to the garage in five minutes to help me with the brake test and call my shove out of the to the street?”
I then go out and do my walk around the car to make sure everything looks good. I open the trunk to check that all the emergency equipment is in place. I then get in the drivers seat and test all the controls such as honk the horn, check that all the lights work (This includes getting out and visually checking them.) and checking all the paperwork to verify that all proper daily maintenance inspections have been performed. Fortunately, earlier today I had already spent the several hours completing these daily inspections and so the paperwork was in order.
In addition to the inspections paperwork, I need to have copies of all state, county, and city driving laws and ordinances in my possession when operating. Like everyone else, I keep a copy of these things in a backpack that I just carry with me when going anywhere. As I review this paperwork, I realize that I haven’t got a copy of the “Daily Highway Bulletin”. So I run back into the house, log into the State Highway website, and print it out. I then need to review it before proceeding.
Also, I not only can’t use my cell phone, or any other electronic device while driving the car, but these things must be completely turned off and put away in my backpack along with my operating rules books. Of course our car doesn’t have any other radio besides our special CB radio that connects us with the UHP Control Center. Music or any other type of entertainment is prohibited. Also any type of food or drink must be stowed away while I’m driving.
My engine is now running and headlights on. Specific lights need to be on anytime the car is moving or even parked out in public.
My Beautiful Wife, decked out in the proper safety vest and other gear, now comes out. She has a handheld CB radio which she uses to provide me with the “radio check” that I need to make before moving the car. Next, with a flashlight, she gets down by the rear wheels where she can see the brake shoes engage and disengage as I apply and release. On her command I work the brakes so she can verify that they are working properly.
She now stands back and waits while I contact the State Patrol Control Center (via CB radio on a specified channel) to get authorization to enter the street system.
Me on CB Radio: “Automobile operator #152569419 to USP Control – Over”
USP Control on CB Radio: “USP Control – Over”
Me on CB Radio: “Operator #152569419 requests permission for Auto # UT 375 HSP to enter the road system at 1428 N Reese Drive, Provo and proceed to Walmart Supercenter at 1355 Sandhill Road, Orem. – Over”
USP Control on CB Radio: “152569419, University Parkway is currently congested at Geneva Road. You have permission to proceed to Walmart via 2000 South Orem to Sandhill Road. – Over”
Me on CB Radio: “Auto # UT 375 HSP has permission to enter the Utah road system at 1428 N Reese Drive, Provo and proceed to Walmart Supercenter at 1355 Sandhill Road, Orem via 2000 South Orem to Sandhill Road? – Over”
USP Control on CB Radio: “Auto # UT 375 HSP, that is correct. USP Control out.”
Me on CB Radio to Beautiful Wife: (Who is now standing at the end of our driveway.) “152569419 to #152562871, Auto UT 375 HSP is ready for a westbound shove onto Reese Drive. – Over”
Beautiful Wife on handheld CB Radio: “Auto UT 375 HSP, the driveway and street are clear and you are clear to shove westbound 100 feet onto Reese Drive. – Over”
Me on CB Radio: “Auto UT 375 HSP is clear to shove westbound 100 feet onto Reese Drive. – Over”
Beautiful Wife on handheld CB Radio: “Auto UT 375 HSP, that is correct. – Over”
Before I begin to backup, I sound my horn with two short burst to indicate that the car is about to begin movement.
After I proceed half way down our driveway, my Beautiful Wife must call out that I am clear 50 feet and then count down my progress to a stop. Of course she is back behind me observing my backing process.
I’m now clear to proceed forward, of course only taking the route cleared by USP Control.
Before I speed the car past 10mph, I need to test the brakes again to make sure they are responsive in the moving vehicle. If I forget this “Rolling Brake Test” I could lose my license. As I pass 1440 N (just past my house) my headlights must be on “Brights” and I sound my horn. Turning west on 1520 N, I of course sound my warning horn. These many subdivision side streets have me sounding my horn more than not. As I come to Geneva Road, I must stop before the white painted stop line. Of course when the road is covered in ice or snow, I just have to know where this line is. Over running a stop sign or stop light will get my license revoked immediately.
Just down Geneva Road, I turn right onto West 1680 North. As I round onto this small side street, an state patrol trooper flags me down. He asks to see my operators license, checks my cell phone to make sure it’s turned off and tucked away in my paperwork back pack and then climbs in the front seat of my car, informing me that he will be riding along with me to observe my driving. (This is common enough that every driver can expect it once in awhile.)
We proceed through the short connector streets culminating in the round-a-bout that dumps us onto Sand Hill Road. Soon we are at the red traffic light waiting to turn into the Wal-Mart parking lot. Again, I must stop before the white line at the intersection. Also, I can’t proceed with a right turn into the parking lot until the light changes. Any of these things will get my license revoked.
Eventually, we arrive in the parking lot. I now have to sound my horn while moving about as I find a parking space in the far reaches.
The space requirements between parked cars make for a full parking lot even though there are relatively few shoppers here today. The cars can’t be parked closer than 20 feet from another car (front to back) and walking paths to the store, between cars requires at least a 100 foot space. So I feel lucky that I can park at all, instead of having to just leave and come back later.
Of course in order to exit my car and proceed through the Wal-Mart parking lot into the store, I have to wear the proscribed safety vest and move about the parking lot so that I don’t get too close to any parked car.
Once I’ve got my gallon of milk, and I’m back at my car, I need to wait my turn for the parking lot worker to call my shove as I back up out of my parking stall, just like my Beautiful Wife had to do to get me out of our garage back home.
In due time I’ve complete my radio calls to USP Control and gain permission for my return trip home. As I’m headed down Sand Hill Road, suddenly there’s a reduced speed 1000 feet a head sign. However at the prescribed distance there is no reduced speed sign. Of course I recognize what’s going on and slow to 10 MPH before I reach the 1000 feet distance. This is an efficiency test. If I don’t slow from the posted 35 MPH speed in time I will lose my license. These efficiency tests can take any form and can happen at any time.
As I approach a car stopped along the road, I honk my horn as a warning that I’m passing. I am also required to report any problems that I see along the way, including trespassers.
When it’s all said and done, I’m back with the gallon of milk in an hour and a half. As I close the garage door and carry my gallon of milk into the house, I think to my self, “Next time I’ll just walk to the store.” But then I realize, “I can’t do that. Walking along the public roadways is prohibited, and I’d be arrested as a trespasser