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Rail Labor Supports NTSB Safety Recommendations Spurred By East Palestine Investigation

By Admin

WASHINGTON — Greg Regan and Shari Semelsberger, President and Secretary-Treasurer of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), issued this statement after the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) met yesterday to issue safety recommendations related to the 2023 train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio:

“The NTSB’s findings and safety recommendations are an indictment of widespread safety failures across the freight rail industry. The Board identified a number of key safety issues that are thematic to the industry, including a lack of federal standards for the use of wheel bearing defect detectors; communications delays during emergency responses to rail accidents or incidents; and vulnerabilities of aging tank cars that carry hazardous materials. As the eyes and ears on the ground, rail workers have diligently raised alarm about these kinds of existing safety deficiencies and many others.

“We strongly support the Board’s recommendations for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to take the following actions: establish regulations for bearing defect detection systems, including minimum standards to protect railroad workers and the public, and minimum requirements for the installation, inspection and maintenance of wayside bearing detectors; establish rules governing railroads’ operational responses to bearing alerts and alarms; update existing guidance for vent and burn procedures; and exercise regulatory authority to ensure the Association of American Railroads (AAR) addresses weakness in its existing tank car approval process.

“We also support the Board’s recommendations for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to accelerate its deadline for removing DOT-111 tank cars from service; establish a replacement schedule for any tank cars that don’t meet the specifications of DOT-117 tank cars; expand the definition of High-Hazard Flammable Trains; and improve the survivability of tank car placards.

“In addition, we support the Board’s recommendations for AAR to develop a public database of bearing failures and replacements, and to revise the definition of a key train to include any train carrying hazmat in cars that don’t meet DOT-117 tank car standards. We also support the Board’s recommendation for Norfolk Southern to improve emergency response communications by providing train consist information to first responders. This recommendation is in line with PHMSA’s new rule requiring freight railroads to provide electronic, real-time information about the train consist and hazardous material to first responders.

“On the whole, the Board’s safety recommendations reinforce our longstanding calls for stronger federal regulations and legislation to improve rail safety. While the Railway Safety Act does not include every item on our wish list for rail safety, it does address many of the Board’s recommendations and we urge the Senate to take up the legislation. We are hopeful that these recommendations will create a safer freight rail industry for everyone. We thank the NTSB for its steadfast efforts in this investigation and look forward to continuing to work with our federal partners to implement these recommendations and explore additional solutions.”