Clayton News-Star

Rig involved in train derailment was hauling Clayton load

The tractor-trailer rig that caused a train crash Monday in Halifax County was hauling a shipment from Clayton.

The rig was carrying a power equipment center built by PCX Corp. at its plant on Pony Farm Road. PCX chief executive Mark DiLillo said the company was shipping the modular center, which housed industrial electrical equipment, from its plant to a customer in New Jersey.

During the trip, the oversized truck was blocking a railroad crossing while trying to make a tight left turn from N.C. 903 onto U.S. 301 in Halifax. The Amtrak Carolinian, carrying 212 passengers and eight crew members, crashed into the 164-foot-long rig before it could make the turn.

The crash knocked the locomotive and baggage car off the tracks, causing mostly minor injuries to 62 people onboard.

“It’s a terrible tragedy, and we certainly feel for the families who were injured and inconvenienced,” DiLillo said.

PCX routinely ships its products, which include electrical distribution and data centers, throughout the United States, DiLillo said. The trip to New Jersey wasn’t unusual, he said, adding that PCX has shipped products as far away as Alaska and Hawaii.

For this shipment, DiLillo said, the company took steps to ensure safety, including making sure the trucking company it hired had the necessary permits and police escorts. A state trooper was escorting the rig at the time of the train crash.

DiLillo said he couldn’t say which trucking company PCX used. However, N.C. Highway Patrol Lt. Jeff Gordon said the company was Guy M. Turner Inc. of Greensboro.

Turner paid the N.C. Department of Transportation $417 for a permit to make the trip with a vehicle longer, taller, wider and heavier than standard tractor-trailer rigs. The permit required Turner to travel with at least one trooper in front and two escort vehicles behind.

Kevin Lacy, DOT’s chief traffic engineer, said Turner was responsible for checking out the route and making the trip safely.

“In this case, this company had familiarity with the route because they have been issued other permits for the same route with similar loads,” Lacy said by email.

It’s unclear how long the rig was on the tracks before the crash, but conflicting reports suggest it was between five and 20 minutes. State and federal trucking regulations require drivers to call railroad emergency dispatch numbers when their rigs are stuck on or near railroad tracks.

Spokesmen for Amtrak and CSX refused to say whether anyone ever made that call Monday. A spokeswoman for Turner, the trucking company, declined to comment.

The crash completely destroyed the PCX product, and DiLillo said the company will have to replace the order.

Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104