A Tunisian passenger train smashed into a semi-trailer truck racing to cross the tracks early Tuesday morning, killing 18 people as two carriages derailed.

At least 86 people were injured when the speeding train hit the truck at 6:30 a.m. outside the town of Fahs, 37 miles southwest of the capital, Tunis, authorities said.

Local media had initially reported the truck driver was among the dead, but Lt. Col. Selmi Yousfi said he escaped when he saw the train barreling toward him at about 80 mph, and later surrendered.

Some of the passengers were ejected upon impact, said Mongi Kadhi, an official with emergency services. The train engineer was among those who died.

The crossing had a warning sign, but lacked guardrails, lights or barriers.

"Accidents like this one happen at crossings, and it's usually due to the lack of attention by the cars and trucks, because the train has to follow the rails," said Yousfi.

But Habib Jouini, the engineer of a train not involved in Tuesday's crash, faulted the security of the railway.

"We have these level crossings but they're not secured, there is no guard," he said.