Close Call in Louisiana Leads to Expanded Safety Campaign with Locomotive Engineer's Help

Large Retina | Inside Track: Sugar Cane Harvest Safety

In the wee hours of the morning, as his train rumbled through sugar cane fields in central Louisiana, Union Pacific Locomotive Engineer Cory Van Mol watched in disbelief as a farm tractor failed to yield at a private crossing.

The tractor made it across, but Van Mol didn’t let the close call end there. He wanted to do something to try to prevent more close calls or potential tragedies during the sugar cane harvest in Louisiana.

As it happened, the incident that occurred earlier this month was on a farm owned by Van Mol’s uncle. The next morning, Van Mol called his uncle and offered to provide safety literature in both English and Spanish to the hired farm workers busy harvesting sugar cane.

Van Mol then looped in Buck Russel, Union Pacific’s Sr. Supervisor Public Safety.

Over the next few days, Van Mol and Russel quickly fired up a coordinated and extensive safety campaign, with the help of Van Mol’s agricultural connections.

“Union Pacific has always worked proactively during the sugar cane harvest to enhance public safety for our employees, farmers and drivers,” said Russel. “But, this year, Van Mol was able to connect me with the right people at the right time to help us grow and expand our relationships with sugar cane organizations in Louisiana.”

Sugar cane harvest time is a labor-intensive activity that begins in October and extends through December. Harvest crews descend upon a farm, with heavy equipment and trucks. Trucks weigh up to 100,000 pounds and can cross a private crossing hundreds of times a day, 24 hours a day.

Three Louisiana organizations are now actively sharing safety tips on railroad crossings, as well as video and literature produced by Union Pacific’s communications department in both English and Spanish: the American Sugar Cane League, the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation and the Louisiana Operation Lifesaver.

Farmers and harvesters are being urged to call Union Pacific’s 24/7 Response Management Communications Center at 1-888-877-7267 and notify them of harvest activities.

As part of this year’s campaign, sugar cane farmers and harvesters are being urged to call Union Pacific’s 24/7 Response Management Communications Center at 1-888-877-7267 and notify them of harvest activities at specific public and private railroad crossings. Train crews can then be given advanced warnings of harvest activities, allowing them the chance to slow down.

The Gulf Coast Service Unit Management team has already issued several bulletins to train crews, advising them of harvest activities occurring at specific crossings, based upon incoming phone calls from ag producers, Russel said.

It’s amazing what can be done in a few days after a bad night that led to a mission in the morning. “If we can save one life or stop one incident from happening, it will all be worth it,” said Von Mol.

Find the Blue and White to Save Your Life

A public service announcement from Union Pacific and the American Sugar Cane League

Encuentra el azul y blanco para salvar tu vida

Seguridad en los cruces de ferrocarril. Encuentra el azul y blanco para salvar tu vida.

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