The Norfolk Southern train that derailed in Ohio, causing widespread environmental and health concerns, broke down two days prior to the incident, employees say.
Norfolk Southern employees allege that after the train left its station of origin in Madison, Illinois, on Feb. 1, it broke down at least once prior to the Feb. 3 derailing in East Palestine, Ohio, CBS reported. In the employees’ view, the train was pulling too much weight and was too long. They believe that 151 cars and 18,000 tons contributed to both the breakdown and the later derailment, according to the outlet.
“We shouldn’t be running trains that are 150 car lengths long,” one of the employees told the outlet. “There should be some limitations to the weight and the length of the trains. In this case, had the train not been 18,000 tons, it’s very likely the effects of the derailment would have been mitigated.”
— Michael Kaplan (@mkaplantv) February 15, 2023
Approximately fifty cars, some filled with hazardous materials, derailed on the night of Feb. 3, leading to the evacuation of 2,000 people in the town of East Palestine. Firefighters from three states were called to help put out the massive blaze resulting from the derailment.
Some of the chemicals in the fire were known carcinogens, prompting citizens and officials to express concern about the short- and long-term environmental and health effects the accident may have on local residents.
A Norfolk Southern spokesperson defended the length of the train, telling CBS News, “the weight distribution of this train was uniform throughout” adding that the train included a mid-train locomotive “which helps manage the dynamic forces of the train” and aids in reducing mechanical issues.
The spokesman further argued that it was “inaccurate” to assign a “reputation” to a train based on its length and weight, telling CBS that “longer and heavier train” had previously done the route before the decision was made to split it into two “shorter, lighter trains.”
Sarah Feinberg, a former administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, disagreed, stating that she “was not happy” when the trains were 80-90 cars long. Feinberg argued that the longer trains might be more efficient for executives and railroad companies, but are more challenging for crews to handle, particularly when there are problems mid-route, the outlet reported. (RELATED: State Reps Call For Investigations Into Ohio Train Derailment)
Precision Schedule Railroading, or PSR, is a program widely adopted by the railroad industry aimed at increasing efficiency and lowering costs. It was implemented by Norfolk Southern in 2019. A report from the Government Accountability Office, however, stated that the policy had led to reductions in staff, longer trains, and reductions in assets. The Federal Railroad Administration stated in the report that the findings were inconclusive about the potential rail safety risks.
The employees speaking to CBS News, however, expressed their concerns with the policy.
“The workers are exhausted, times for car inspections have been drastically cut, and there are no regulations on the size of these trains,”one employee told the outlet.
The derailment is currently being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which announced Tuesday it had “identified and examined the rail car that initiated the derailment,” the outlet stated.
The Daily Caller reached out to Norfolk Southern for comment. Company President and CEO Alan Shaw expressed his determination to make things right for the community in an open letter to the residents of East Palestine obtained by the Daily Caller. In it, Shaw pledged environmental testing, clean-up crews, as well as a $1 million community support fund to be viewed as a downpayment on the company’s “commitment to help rebuild.”