TxDOT Rail Inspectors Battle Heat and Rattlesnakes

Inspecting more than 10,000 miles of railroad track spread out across Texas is hard work. Inspecting all of that track in the blistering summer heat while keeping a sharp eye out for rattlesnakes adds an entirely new dimension of difficulty to that “hard work.”

[Above photo by TxDOT]

“It gets extremely hot during the summer months in West Texas and one of the biggest dangers we encounter while performing walking inspections are rattlesnakes,” explained Luie Sanchez, a lead track investigator for the Texas Department of Transportation in Midland.

“I walk many miles in very remote areas of the state and the chances of walking by/near a rattler are pretty high,” he noted in a TxDOT blog post.

“I used to work for railroads, so I know what to look for in terms of what goes on, on the tracks and in the cars,” added Sterling Teague, a rail safety investigator. “And of course, we all have training from TxDOT and certifications from the state and federal government in our specialties. Our goal is to keep everyone safe, from the train operators to rail workers to the traveling public.”

 He works to ensure locomotives, train cars, and other rail equipment is in good condition, that hazardous materials are stored properly, and rail workers are wearing proper protective gear and following safety precautions.

“Texas connects ports on the Gulf Coast to the plains of the Midwest and is often the starting point for goods shipped from Mexico to the east and west coasts,” noted TxDOT Rail Division Director Jeff Davis.

“Although much of this trade occurs on our highway system, a significant amount is also transported on our extensive rail network, and we want that system to operate as safely as possible,” he added.

Davis noted that the specific duties of TxDOT rail investigators include:

  • Conducting freight and commuter rail safety inspections.
  • Monitoring railroads for compliance with federal regulations and railroad operating rules.
  • Investigating railroad accidents and complaints.
  • Responding to miscellaneous railroad information requests, including requests for clearance deviations.
  • Serving as liaisons to the Federal Railroad Administration in matters relating to rail safety.
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