In recent years, railroads have become a more popular means of transporting
oil and other flammable liquids across the country. However, after several
high-profile train derailments, government regulators and industry officials
have turned their focus to improving safety to prevent future accidents.
Federal regulators have considered passing new legislation that would require
cars carrying oil or other dangerous materials to be designed with stronger
materials that would be more resistant to leaks and fire in the event
that a train derails the tracks. However, an official with the country’s
largest railroad union, Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees (BMWE),
believes the primary focus should be on preventing derailments in the
Better Track Maintenance & Inspection Would Reduce Derailments
Of the 1,220 derailments in 2014, nearly 40% of them were caused at least
in part by track flaws. Railroad tracks are given a class designation
based on how often they are inspected and maintained. Regulations govern
how fast a train can travel on a track based on its class designation.
For example, Class 1 tracks – the lowest classification –
forbid trains from traveling over 10 miles per hour. Class 5 tracks, which
have the most stringent inspection and maintenance polices, allow for
trains to travel at speeds of up to 80 miles per hour.
The BMWE proposed that all tracks that carry trains transporting dangerous
materials be maintained at a higher level class without an increased in
speeds or be forced to reduce speeds to a class one level below its current
designation. The union is also pushing for expedited repairs on tracks
that currently have defects. Opponents of the reduced speeds say that
slowing down oil trains will negatively impact transportation on the entire
network of rail.
Regulations Regarding Car Design & Braking Systems Expected Soon
Several emergency safety orders have already been issued by the Federal
Railroad Administration (FRA). Earlier this month, the FRA issued an order
that limits oil trains to 40 miles per hour while traveling through urban
areas – regardless of the track’s class designation. More
regulations regarding car design and braking systems are expected within
the next month.