PACIFIC National is calling for a national summit on level-crossing safety after a fatal train crash near on New Year’s Eve.

A PacNat train and a truck collided at a level crossing on the on the Barrier Highway at Bindarrah, South Australia, causing the locomotive to catch fire and several train carriages to derail.

PacNat train drivers Mick Warren and Kevin Baker died in the crash. A 75-year-old truck driver from Queensland was charged with causing death by dangerous driving, South Australia Police said.

PacNat has called for federal and state governments, industry groups, private operators and unions to convene to develop new measures to prevent deaths at level crossings.

There are more than 23,000 level crossings in Australia, according to the rail freight operator, and hundreds of near-miss incidents at the crossings each year.

“On Friday, I spent time with the families of Mick and Kevin, and what’s abundantly clear is no person should have to experience this type of grief,” Pacific National CEO Paul Scurrah said.

“Tragedies at level crossings devastate entire communities and the message isn’t getting across loud enough. Losing concentration or being reckless about safety at a level crossing can kill. 

“We are calling on federal and state governments to engage with industry on improved protections.

“This isn’t about pointing the finger at drivers or pedestrians but working together to overcome complexities and simply do better. If we don’t, more Australians will be subjected to senseless deaths.”

PacNat has proposed a full audit of Australia’s level crossings to identify risk locations, industry-led solutions to improve behaviour and safety around level crossings, more investment in technology and infrastructure.

The proposed summit could also look at increased penalties for “blatant indiscretions” and joint industry public education campaigns to protect drivers.

“The safety message is straight-forward; it can take up to two kilometres for a fully loaded freight train to stop,” Mr Scurrah said.

“It takes a vehicle or a pedestrian a moment of clear thought and mere seconds to stop. Slow down, stop and cross with care.”

PacNat also plans to roll out a national advertising campaign on level-crossing safety, on behalf of the families of the two train drivers.

The goal of the campaign would be to further educate the community and road users on railway level-crossing safety, building on existing industry and government campaigns that run annually.

Last week, Rail, Tram and Bus Union assistant national secretary Shayne Kummerfeld called for a zero-tolerance approach to level crossing safety, with cameras at all level crossings and harsher penalties for drivers who drove across rail lines in front of trains.

“Anyone who has ever driven a locomotive has probably had a near miss at a level crossing, with someone trying to ‘beat the train’,” Mr Kummerfeld said.

“The level crossing madness simply has to stop.”

Mr Kummerfeld said better infrastructure and better use of technology could also help reduce level crossing incidents.

“Governments should also be putting more funding towards improving level crossing protection – with more warning lights, more boom gates and more grade separations,” he said.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau is investigating the accident and intends to release a final report at the conclusion of the investigation.