Stopping Requirements for Commercial Motor Vehicles at Railroad Crossings

By law, all commercial motor vehicles transporting passengers or hazardous materials must stop at all highway-railroad grade crossings, with few exceptions (listed below). RCW 46.61.350

Drivers are required to stop, listen and look for approaching trains and signals indicating the approach of a train before proceeding. This is a change from the previous law which only required commercial motor vehicles to stop at grade crossings that were not protected by automatic signals.


Washington state law is consistent with the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) relating to commercial motor vehicle operators. Both state law and the CFR contain some exceptions to the stopping requirements.

The law does not apply to any railroad crossing where:

  • The UTC has approved the installation of an "Exempt" sign or has identified that stopping is not required under RCW 81.53.060.
  • Traffic is controlled by a police officer or flagger.
  • A functioning traffic control signal is transmitting a green light.
  • The tracks are used exclusively for a streetcar or industrial switching purposes.
  • The crossing is abandoned and is marked with a sign indicating it is out of service.

Petitions to Install "Exempt" Signs

"Exempt" signs are intended to inform drivers of commercial motor vehicles transporting passengers or hazardous materials that a stop is not required at certain designated railroad crossings, except when rail traffic is approaching or occupying the crossing or the driver's view is blocked.

The UTC only has regulatory authority to approve installation of "Exempt" signs at crossings on industrial or spur lines, not on main line track. The UTC does not have jurisdiction to approve installation of "Exempt" signs at railroad crossings within first-class cities. First-class cities have independent authority to authorize the installation of these signs. 

To obtain a copy of the current petition and for more information, please contact

For general information about the UTC petition process, visit the Railroad Crossing Changes page.