Train derailments are common, but few rise to the level of the East Palestine crisis


When the train derailed East Palestine, Ohioearlier this year, it quickly made national headlines.

Hazardous chemicals in the 151-car train, incl vinyl chlorideand after a few weeks these residents are still demands answers how a controlled release and combustion some of these chemicals may have been released into the environment.

Since then, almost every day has brought news other derailed form.

While this may seem like a new phenomenon, train derailments are very common in the United States, with 1,154 such derailments in 2022, an average of more than three per day, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

That’s actually down from decades past: In 1978, there were 8,744 derailments, more than seven times as many as in 2022, according to the FRA. In 2008, FRA data shows 1,789 train derailments. In 2018, 1376 derailed.

Drone footage of a freight train derailment east of Palestine, Ohio
A screenshot of the aftermath of the February 6, 2023 freight train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, from video released by the NTSB.

Handout via NTSBGov/REUTERS

J. According to Mehdi Ahmadian, Bernard Jones professor of mechanical engineering and director of Virginia Tech’s Center for Vehicle Safety and Systems, most derailments can be attributed to one of two reasons.

“The main causes of derailment are road damage or tire failure. “They account for more than 80 percent of train derailments,” Ahmadian said. Road damage means that the road is broken and there is a gap that causes the wheels to come off, or that the road has moved in a way that causes the wheels to come off the road. Wheel bearing failure reason offered Disaster in East Palestine.

While the number of derailments that occur each year may seem alarming, Ahmadian said it’s important to keep the number in perspective: About 14 million rail cars travel through the United States each year. , he said, and only a small percentage of those cars derail.

“If we compare railroad accidents with semi-trailers, another type of heavy-duty vehicle, we quickly see that semi-trailers have more accidents per capita than railroads. Ahmadian said. attention, while most semi-trailer accidents do not have the same significant impact and are therefore far less covered.”

Despite the high rate of train derailments, fewer people die in shipping accidents: According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, only 131 people died in derailments between 1990 and 2021.

The financial cost of such events is much more significant. Between 2018 and 2021, 4,852 train derailments cost $925,699,004, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

There were more calls for reform after another Norfolk Southern train derailment in Ohio


Reportable damages include labor costs to repair and replace damaged equipment, hourly wages and expenses of affected employees, and rental and use of equipment to replace or repair damaged equipment, according to the administration. damage and costs related to “repair or replacement of roller bearings”. in derailed units”. These charges do not include aircraft wreckage clearance or damage to flatbed trailers or containers.

Austin Gray, assistant professor of biological sciences at Virginia Tech, said the best way to prevent future derailments is to invest in rail infrastructure. He said this would reduce wheel and track failures, which are responsible for many derailments.

“I understand that this is a logistical challenge with the expansion of railroads across the United States, but this factor could be eliminated by more funding for railroad upgrades, so railroads don’t exist because they are old or obsolete. torn or deteriorated,” Gray said. “Instead, they’re code-ready and they’re all being restored or upgraded. to help reduce the number of derailments caused by nine such situations.”

The disaster in eastern Palestine has sparked interest in such solutions, Ahmadian said. There is Norfolk Southern, which operates the East Palestine train published a six-point security plan. A a bipartisan Senate group was recently introduced The Railroad Safety Act of 2023, which would increase the size of train crews, increase wheel bearing monitoring and change the way hazardous materials are transported.

All news on the site does not represent the views of the site, but we automatically submit this news and translate it using software technology on the site, rather than a human editor.

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