Railroad Industry Safety Under Scrutiny


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The Association of American Railroads claim stating 2014 was “the safest year on record for the railroad industry” is under scrutiny by train safety advocates. Five train accidents, including the catastrophic Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia, have occurred this year.

Federal reports and railroad safety data reviewed by The New England Center for Investigative Reporting (NECIR) proposes that even if certain aspects of rail travel safety have increased over the past decades, some safety indicators have yet to improve.

Certain Safety Facets of Train Travel have Decreased
In the past year, train accidents involving fires have doubled. Moreover, hazardous toxic substance leaks caused by train accidents have increased over the last two years. While certain agencies are doling out new train accident safety rules, those same agencies have suppressed data in government reports that project twice as many train derailments will occur over the next several years. The Federal Department of Transportation released new rules last month which will further regulate tank cars carrying crude, ethanol and other flammable liquids. However, it is interesting to note that the NECIR’s findings on train accident safety coincides with a response by the train industry to address the public’s concerns over recent train accidents.

The new tank car federal regulations will permit older, less-safe tank cars to continue to run with the hope they will be less susceptible to accidents. The troubling issue is that if there is an increase in the transport of flammable liquids, there will be an increase in train accidents resulting in serious explosions due to the nature of the toxic leaks.

New Tank Car Rules Challenged
The Department of Transportation’s new rules for tank cars have been challenged in a federal appeals court by a combination of environmental groups, which includes Earthjustice. The coalition is questioning why the agency would acknowledge that there are inferior tank cars on the rails but would allow them to continue to run for the next ten years. Train safety advocates are pushing for stricter regulations for train cars that will be carrying possible hazardous materials, and to no longer allow old train cars to operate on the railroads. If the environmental group’s efforts are successful, train accidents similar to Philadelphia’s Amtrak derailment can be prevented.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Richard DiTomaso
Richard DiTomaso, Esq. was admitted to the practice of law in New Jersey and Pennsylvania in 1996, and was admitted to the practice in Illinois in 1995. He is admitted to practice in all State Courts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the Federal District Court of New Jersey and the Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania and also the U.S. Supreme Court.

Richard DiTomaso, Esq. is a Certified Civil Trial Attorney as designated by the Supreme Court of New Jersey. Only 1534 lawyers, less than 2.5% of New Jersey’s approximate 60,000 lawyers*, hold this prestigious certification. Only attorneys who have demonstrated sufficient experience, knowledge, education and skill in civil trial practice as civil trial attorneys are ever certified as Civil Trial Attorneys.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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