Why Are Trains Derailing All Over The Country?

Following the Palestine, Ohio train derailment that occurred on February 3, there have been multiple derailments across different states in the U.S. such as Florida, West Virginia, Michigan, Oklahoma, and Nebraska. Just recently, a Norfolk Southern train also experienced a derailment in Alabama, and a contractor was killed in Cleveland after a train collided with a dump truck on Tuesday.

Not an Uncommon Occurrence

Although the number of derailments has decreased over time, safety concerns persist. Workers in the railroad industry are calling for tougher safety regulations to improve maintenance, repairs, and staffing levels to enhance safety and avoid hazardous materials spills. Recent data indicates that train derailments are not uncommon in the US. Federal records show that, on average, three trains derail in the country per day, with railroads required to report any derailment that causes more than $10,700 in damage, regardless of the level of danger involved.

Recently, two Ohio senators, one a Democrat and the other a Republican, proposed a bipartisan bill aimed at enhancing rail safety. They believe that no American family should be forced to flee their homes due to hazardous materials spills or fires caused by derailments.

In a related development, a railroad industry group cautioned its members on safety concerns related to 675 rail cars, similar to the ones involved in the Ohio derailment last weekend. The group advised members to halt their use pending further investigation.

Federal records show that 1,164 train derailments occurred in 2021, and 1,095 happened in 2022. Though these numbers reflect a significant improvement from previous decades, such as 1979 and 1980 when railroads reported 7,482 and 6,442 derailments, respectively, they still demonstrate the need for continued vigilance in promoting safety in the railroad industry.

The Data

According to a USA TODAY analysis of federal incident reports, hazardous materials have spilled or leaked from trains over 5,000 times in the US in the past decade. Federal records show that last year, there were 67 hazardous material leaks from highway transportation for every rail leak.

However, in 2022, rail operators reported 337 hazardous material leaks or spills, of which only 32 were classified as “serious,” and six resulted in injuries. USA TODAY found that railroad derailments accounted for one in ten hazmat wrecks over the past decade, and one in four of those incidents occurred last year.

AAR, the trade group, claimed that 99.9% of all hazmat shipments reach their destination without incident, and the hazmat accident rate has decreased by 55% since 2012. Despite this, passenger trains like Amtrak have also experienced derailments and accidents.

In central Missouri in June 2022, an Amtrak train collided with a dump truck, resulting in four fatalities. Similarly, in northern Montana in September 2021, the Empire Builder, an Amtrak train, derailed, killing three people. The causes of both crashes remain under investigation.

The National Safety Council reported that railroad deaths totaled 978 last year, the highest since 2007. However, most of these deaths were not caused by derailments or crashes but rather by people trespassing on train tracks. Last year, seven passengers were killed, compared to 11 railroad employees.

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.