Train derailment inspires push for tighter safety regs

Earlier this month, a train derailment in Canada resulted in a fiery explosion that devastated an entire town and killed at least 47 people. In the wake of the accident, the Obama Administration has been pushing for tighter regulations governing the type of railcar involved in the derailment; however, the efforts are facing a heavy push-back from the oil and rail industries.

The rail cars at issue are used to haul crude oil from coast to coast in the United States but they have a serious design flaw that causes the soda-can shaped cars to split open easily upon derailment or other major accidents. Because the cars are often hauling oil or other hazardous materials, the results of spills can be catastrophic, as the Canadian accident shows.

The Obama Administration and safety officials are calling for the rail cars with this design to be retrofitted, but industry leaders say doing so would be far too expensive. The industry has agreed to implement new safety standards for new railroad cars, but safety experts say that this wouldn’t offer enough protection against dangerous rail cars that are currently in use.

Oil has created a booming industry in the United States over the past several years and it is primarily hauled throughout the country by rail. In fact, the amount of crude oil being hauled in the U.S. during the first half of the year doubled from the first half of 2012 and is and 33 times more than during the first half of 2009.

Hopefully, it won’t take any more of these serious train derailments before oil and rail industry leaders admit that tighter safety regulations are necessary. However, it might take some expensive personal injury lawsuits before they take the hint and start putting safety first.

Source: Boston Globe, “Industry fights safety retrofit of older rail cars,” Matthew Daly, July 29, 2013