Improvements To Rail Cars And Railroad Tracks Needed To Increase Safety | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

A recent editorial in a California newspaper called on railroad companies and railroad safety regulators to come together and make some desperately needed improvements to ensure that railroad employees and innocent civilians are protected from future derailments.

The editorial points out that as oil production in the United States has ramped up, the stress to the country’s railways has never been greater. Today, U.S. and Canadian railroads are hauling more than 50 times more crude oil than they were in 2008, a remarkable and alarming increase in such a short amount of time. If such trends were to continue, even at a slower pace, the potential for ever-more deadly derailments would become unacceptably high.

For additional information about toxic railroad derailments and their devastating impacts, read through the following articles:

Derailments, explosions, fires, evacuations, death and pollution all occur as a result of these oil-carrying train crashes. To help minimize the dangers posed by the trains, safety experts recommend two crucial fixes: that the train cars be improved and that the tracks carrying the oil also be upgraded.

Upgraded tanker cars are critical to increasing safety on America’s railway network. Building better and stronger tanker cars that are less likely to rupture in a derailment can go a long way to minimizing the fallout from such an accident. Older models that are currently in use have thin metal skins and are prone to bursting when absorbing the impact of a derailment.

Though new railroad cars can definitely improve safety, the reality is that new cars alone are not enough. The derailment, which occurred in April of this year just outside Lynchburg, Virginia, involved newer tanker cars. Despite the improved design, the tanker cars ruptured, caught fire and spilled 20,000 gallons of oil.

So far, railroad companies have appeared willing to discuss changes to these tanker cars. Many familiar with the industry say this comfort is because the railroads typically don’t own the tanker cars; instead, they lease them and would thus not have the responsibility for upgrading them. Railroad tracks, however, are the responsibility of the railroads and not something anyone appears eager to discuss.

Broken tracks and other defects with the rails are among the most common causes of derailments. Given this, it’s crucial that money be allocated to carefully inspect sections of track that are key crude oil routes. Though railroad operators frequently repeat statistics showing that the vast majority of dangerous goods are delivered safely, this is less important given the damage that even a single accident can cause. Mile-long trains hauling thousands of gallons of explosive oil crisscross the country every day, passing through places like Chicago, New Orleans, Seattle and other major metropolitan areas that could be devastated by one derailment. The hope is that public pressure forces someone to take action to improve safety for everyone.

For more information, watch the following YouTube video where one of our injury attorneys discusses the railroad injury claims process: