Must danger be cost of doing business for US railroads? | News, Sports, Jobs


Another fiery train derailment, another Appalachian community disrupted — and once again the culprit appears to be insufficient trackside detectors.

Residents near Livingston, Kentucky, were able to return to their homes on the afternoon of Thanksgiving, after having been encouraged to evacuate the day before. But first state officials had to monitor air quality for traces of hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide after two of the derailed cars were determined to have been carrying molten sulfur, which caught fire after the cars were breached.

This time, CSX Corp.’s Bryan Tucker said the derailment was caused by a failed wheel bearing. However, the bearing that failed didn’t get hot enough to trigger an alarm from the last one of the railroad’s trackside detectors that the train passed, so the crew didn’t get any warning before the derailment. Those detectors are set to trigger an alarm only after wheel bearings reach at least 170 degrees.

Remember the Norfolk Southern derailment in East Palestine back in February was reportedly caused when a trackside detector DID catch an overheating wheel bearing, but the crew did not get a warning soon enough to stop the train before it derailed.

One has to wonder what it will take to implement real improvement in required trackside detectors. As the Associated Press reported, reforms proposed after the East Palestine derailment largely have stalled in Congress. Regulators aren’t having any luck, either.

Why? It would seem a no-brainer to make the necessary changes to keep employees and communities safer.

CSX’s Tucker said the process for reimbursing families already has begun. Good, but has such a thing really become just a cost of doing business for railroads?

Perhaps the incident in Kentucky will spur members of Congress to take another look. Clearly railroad safety reform can’t wait.

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