Federal agencies Rail Transportation

Railroad association announces new safety measures


Photo: National Transportation Safety Board

Washington — Spurred by the Feb. 3 train derailment and fire in East Palestine, OH, the freight rail industry says it’s taking several “initial steps” to improve safety.

The Association of American Railroads’ list begins with the installation of 1,000 additional trackside detectors nationwide. These devices are designed to help railroads identify problems before potential derailments occur.

Further, AAR says it intends to:

  • Reduce the spacing of hot bearing detectors on routes not equipped with acoustic bearing detection or similar technology.
  • Ensure the seven Class I railroads in the United States join a voluntary Federal Railroad Administration program to supplement their own programs for confidential reporting of safety issues.
  • Train more than 20,000 first responders nationwide and at the specialized Security and Emergency Response Training Center in Colorado.
  • Expand first-responder and state fire association access to AskRail, a mobile app that provides real-time information about the contents of train cars and the safe handling of contents in the event of an incident.

Additionally, AAR says it will accelerate the work of a task force investigating fire performance enhancements to service equipment. A recent Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration alert warns hazmat rail tank car owners and others of “the potential for certain manway assemblies with aluminum protective housing covers to melt when exposed to extreme heat.”

An initial National Transportation Safety Board investigation into the East Palestine derailment found that three tank cars carrying aluminum vinyl chloride had aluminum covers.

“While we will continue to follow the NTSB’s ongoing investigation in Ohio closely and recognize its deliberate, methodical and fact-based approach, railroads are committed to taking appropriate steps now,” AAR President and CEO Ian Jefferies said in a March 8 press release.

AAR adds in the release that it aims for “a future with zero incidents and zero injuries – one where what happened in East Palestine never happens again.”

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