Train derailment that led to a toxic gas plume and disrupted life near East Palestine, Ohio, has ignited criticism of the rail industry’s safety Standard and Calls for a wider reform.

A freight train derailed in Fed. 3 resulting in a 38 car pileup and Additional 12 cars were also damaged by fire. There were 20 hazardous material-laden cars on the train, and 11 got lost. The train was abandoned shortly after it had been loaded with 20 cars containing hazardous materials. crashOfficials tried to a “controlled burn” That emitted toxic smoke into the environment, sparking evacuation orders The town’s 5,000 inhabitants were also affected.

The evacuation order had been issued lifted Last week residents were reluctant to go back to their homes because of fear. long-term environmental consequences. They could also include soil and water contamination. Many residents have criticized Norfolk Southern Railways, the train’s operator, for lacking adequate safety Procedures that might have prevented the delay. 

A report has been released by the National Transportation Safety Board preliminary report About the accident and Will investigate More will be revealed in the months ahead. However, in a press conference Jennifer Homendy (NTSB chair) stated Thursday that although there is no evidence of the crew being present, “did anything wrong,” She called it the “derailment”. “100% preventable.” 

Rail workers and Union leaders share their views The Sunday Review The Ohio derailment is only the latest extreme example of the kind of train accident constantly taking place across the U.S. And they say it’s the result of years of underinvestment, cost-cutting, and Pushback against safety Protocols in An industry that is controlled only by a handful of major corporations.

“The industry needs to be brought back under control,” Michael Paul Lindsey, a locomotive engineer and Railroad Workers United is an organization that represents Railroad Workers. workers From different unions. The Sunday Review. “We have problems with these massive long trains everywhere along the way, and companies are insistent that it has to work, even if we cut corners doing it.”

Rail Industries lobbied for stricter guidelines. safety Protocols

Derailment in Ohio While these accidents made national news, they are still very common. all the time.

Around 1,000 rail derailments The Department of Transportation estimates that there are approximately 2,000 incidents per year, which includes hazardous materials. “We get derailments like this very regularly,” Lindsey agreed.

“It is difficult to have confidence that the railroads will invest money and implement safety protocols that will ensure the safety of the public and their employees, because they are always reluctant to do so when cost is their primary concern,” Clark Ballew is the director of communications for Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes. This union represents rail workers. The Sunday Review.

Obama’s administration made a push for security in 2014. tighter rail safety regulations. They included extra locks for cars and trains that transport large amounts of hazardous substances. and electronically controlled pneumatic brakes (ECP) to replace the Civil War–era braking systems most trains still use. ECP applies brakes to all trains simultaneously instead of using a car-by vehicle braking system.

The 2015 year was narrow ruling ECP brakes would have been required for all trains transporting 20 cars or more of high-hazard, flammable materials. However, rail companies These rules were actively opposed by one Norfolk Southern representative. telling regulators in 2015 That the company had “serious concerns” Concerning how ECP brakes might impact their operation. Trump Administration repealed The requirement in 2018: ECP brakes not “economically justified.”

A 2015 NTSB study ECP brakes were found to be effective. “out-performed” There are other types of braking. Meanwhile, a 2023 study The Association of American Railroads is a trade association representing railroad companies. It found that ECP brakes were most effective when implemented. “would not provide a meaningful safety benefit.” A 2017 review The National Academy of Sciences used a Department of Transportation modeling test to create this list. “unable to make a conclusive statement” on the performance of ECP brakes compared to other systems, while criticizing the DOT’s modeling methodology.

“Having [ECP brakes] may not have prevented the derailment, but in my opinion it would have severely reduced its impact. It wouldn’t have been as bad,” Gabe Christenson is a railway conductor and Railroad Workers United: cochair The Sunday Review More information about Ohio derailment.

Ex-regulators have commented as well on the possibility that ECP brakes could have helped to mitigate some of the damages in Ohio. “ECP brakes would have avoided that monster pile-up behind the derailed car,” Steven Ditmeyer is a former Federal Railroad Administration official. told USA Today This week. 

The current focus of the NTSB investigation is on an overheated wheel bearing on Norfolk Southern’s train, which was seen to be covered with sparks or flames in A security camera recording in Salem, OhioBefore the train derailment. Norfolk Southern relies upon hot box detectors, also known as hot boxes, to measure temperatures while trains travel. and Alert train personnel of abnormalities and risks. Lindsey stated that failure to do so could result in serious consequences. in Distances of 20 Miles Between Salem and The train was thrown off-track raises questions about the detectors’ reliability.

Three hot boxes detected the wheel bearing warming before the derailment, according to the NTSB’s preliminary report, although only one of them picked up a temperature high enough to trigger an alarm for the train’s staff. The train was not delayed when it did this.

Norfolk Southern spokesperson: The Sunday Review the company is fully collaborating with the NTSB, but declined to comment any further during the agency’s ongoing investigation. Alan Shaw was the CEO in An interview The Wall Street Journal This week, the company will review its safety Moving forward

“It is clear that our safety culture and our investments in safety didn’t prevent this accident. We’re going to see how we could have prevented it when we get the NTSB results,” He said.

Cost-cutting and ‘a handful of railroads’

Many railroads have been around for years. including Norfolk SouthernThe business philosophy that they have followed is known as “precision scheduled railroading,” This focuses on efficiency and allowing for more time. and Reduce costs by using heavier trains and deliver more profits. 

It is believed to improve productivity, according to its advocates. and It lowers costs for customers but is criticized by critics who argue that it makes employees more work. and trains’ long length and A heavier load can lead to derailment. According to the spokesperson for Norfolk Southern, there were 149 cars on board, which is 1.9 miles in length..

That efficiency-maximizing mindset has also affected railroad staffing, particularly over the past few years. From 2017 and 2021, 22% employees of large railroad companies Norfolk Southern, CSX. and Union Pacific were laid off. Critics claim that precision scheduled railroading puts too much emphasis on cost cutting. leads to layoffs

Rail Under fire from the media, companies are being criticized in The past year since workers spoke out Employers should not reduce spending and overwork their employees until they are at risk. safety. Rail workers Close to striking Do it twice in 2022, citing the industry’s understaffing and strict attendance policies Companies rewarded their shareholders with stock buybacks in large amounts. around $200 billion Since 2010. Norfolk Southern in 2022 reported record revenueAnnounced a $10 billion stock buyback Last year’s program. 

The Biden administration was on both occasions proactive in Strikes can be avoided and Industry shutdowns would have had a devastating effect on the economy. Biden ordered railroad employees to go back to work. Companies met with rail unions in response. significant pay raisesThey did however not make concessions for sick leave workers had demanded. CSX reached a partnership with the unions earlier in this month. sick leave policies.  

The bigger issue is unions and Other critics claim that rail has become too concentrated and Failure to encourage competition allows big corporations to get away without being held accountable cost-cutting measures.

A small group of railroad companies has concentrated the railway industry. in Recent years. Seven Class One railroad companies, Norfolk Southern included. in U.S. down from 33 in 1980. Critics also include unions senior politicians, and legal experts According to some, consolidation led to less competition and accountability for the industry’s big players, while warning that the industry’s nature raises the risk of more accidents.

“We all knew it was going to happen,” Christenson made the following statement about Christenson Ohio derailment. “They really need to look at how this monopoly crowds people out. Everyone in America is being held hostage by a handful of railroads.”