US trains hold derailing. Why?

Washington lawmakers are scrutinizing the rail freight industry as a series of derailments hit in 2023.

In the months since a Norfolk Southern train derailment devastated the city of East Palestine, Ohio, more freight cars have been pulled off their tracks in several parts of the country.

“Even one incident can have a dramatic impact on a community,” Ian Jefferies, CEO of the American Association of Railroads, said in an interview with CNBC. Jefferies said derailments were declining overall, citing data from the Federal Rail Administration. However, between 2020 and 2022 a slight increase in reported derailments was registered.

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Others in the industry say avoiding accidents has become more difficult as railway companies pursue more sophisticated business plans. “Trains got heavier and longer,” said Mark Burrows, a former engineer. “It’s a lot to deal with.”

Existing government research is inconclusive as to how these policies affect public safety. However, some areas deserve further investigation, experts say.

“One of the concerns we heard was that the railroads may have compensated for the decline in mechanical personnel by having other types of personnel like conductors do these preflight checks,” said Elizabeth Repko, director of infrastructure policy at the U.S. Government Accountability Office. “They may be missing some things and that could affect safety.”

Some of those concerns may have been brought to life in the now infamous scene in East Palestine, Ohio. The National Transportation Safety Board, which released preliminary findings in February, is conducting a full investigation into the crash.

“This was 100% preventable,” NTSB chair Jennifer Homendy said at a February news conference focused on the preliminary report.

Correction: This video has been updated to correct details on the security sensors in the industry.

Watch them Video above to learn more about the rail freight industry and what could be causing the current spate of train derailments in the US

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