At the time the alarm went off to notify the crew about the overheating bearing, the train was going 47 miles per hour, with the speed limit being 50 miles per hour. Following the alarm, “The train engineer increased the dynamic brake application to further slow and stop the train. During this deceleration, an automatic emergency brake application initiated, and train 32N came to a stop.” But by then it was too late to prevent 38 cars, 11 of them carrying hazardous materials, from derailing.
“Railroads are also relying increasingly on automated wayside detectors to replace—rather than complement—human inspections," the Transportation Communications Union said in a statement. "The railroads have sought waiver after waiver to allow in-person inspections to be substituted for automated temperature detectors.”
Norfolk Southern has insisted that its safety procedures are more than adequate and that deficiencies are not responsible for the derailment. But The New York Times recently reported that accident rates at Norfolk Southern have increased for four years running as the company’s executives have pitched investors on plans to boost profits by cutting costs, and as the freight rail industry has lobbied hard against new safety regulations.
The freight rail companies also fought hard—and largely successfully—to avoid having to give their workers paid sick days, or unpaid sick days for that matter, getting President Joe Biden to avert a rail worker strike in which sick leave would have been a major issue. But since the derailment, Norfolk Southern has agreed to give four sick days a year to 3,000 track maintenance workers, and may expand the sick leave to some other unionized workers.
While that will be an advance, it doesn’t fix the chronic and intentional understaffing that Norfolk Southern and other rail companies have used to increase profits, or the industry’s longstanding opposition to improved safety regulations. Rail is one of the safest forms of transportation, but that shouldn’t be used to block efforts to make it even safer—especially as the rail companies engage in practices likely to make it less safe.
Not long after the evacuation order was lifted following the derailment, Norfolk Southern refused to send representatives to a town hall meeting, claiming to be concerned about the threat of violence. But on Wednesday night, Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw did show up for a CNN town hall with Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. Residents reported ongoing health concerns and fears despite having been told that the air and water are safe. The good news is that residents won’t have to trust Norfolk Southern to do the right thing in cleaning up the site—the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is going to ensure that the company follows through.
“If Norfolk Southern decides that they don’t want to follow the order, EPA will step in, so that there’s no break in service, perform these duties, while fining the company up to $70,000 a day and then we’ll recoup our cost on the back end,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said during the same town hall. “And the law gives us the authority to charge Norfolk Southern up to three times the amount that the cleanup will cost us.”
Trump and $6 million in donations to GOP candidates are partly to thank for Ohio train disaster
Biden offered Ohio ‘anything you need’ after train derailment. Why isn’t DeWine asking for anything?
Yes, electing the president by popular vote is possible! Joining us on this week's episode of The Downballot is former Vermont legislator Christopher Pearson, an official with National Popular Vote, the organization advocating for states to adopt a compact that would award their electoral votes to the presidential candidate who gets the most votes nationwide. Pearson walks us through the mechanics of the compact, debunks some common misconceptions, and lays out future steps toward hitting the required 270 electoral votes for the agreement to come into force.
Comments are closed on this story.