After its second train derailment in Ohio within a matter of weeks, Norfolk Southern on Monday unveiled a “six-point strategy” to increase safety.
Although Norfolk Southern claimed there were no dangerous commodities on the train, around 20 of a 212-car train derailed on Saturday in Springfield, Ohio. The incident happened about a month after a derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, which contained hazardous materials and required hundreds of nearby residents to evacuate for several days.
Norfolk Southern’s safety plan comes ahead of a Thursday U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing about the East Palestine crash, with CEO Alan Shaw scheduled to appear. The incident has sparked lawsuits, outrage from locals, and intense congressional scrutiny. Some have pointed to a preliminary National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report that cited a surveillance video showing “what appeared to be a wheel bearing in the final stage of overheat failure moments before the derailment.”
Four of the six safety recommendations in Norfolk Southern’s safety plan deal with bearing detectors, which are put in place on rail rails and give train crews instantaneous alerts.
The company announced on Monday that it will create a plan to add more detectors “where practical,” saying that it anticipates adding roughly 200 hot bearing detectors, the first of which will be located close to East Palestine.
The five other safety points are:
- Work with manufacturers to develop new types of hot bearing detectors that may be more effective at catching overheated bearings.
- Review industry standards and practices for hot bearing detectors.
- Immediately accelerate the deployment of acoustic bearing detectors, which analyze the acoustic signature of vibrations inside an axle to spot potential problems.
- Work with Georgia Tech Research to develop new advanced safety inspection technology, including using AI to identify defects.
- Join the Federal Railroad Administration‘s Confidential Close Call Reporting system to “support a strong safety culture.”
“Reading the NTSB report makes it clear that meaningful safety improvements require a comprehensive industry effort that brings together railcar and tank car manufacturers, railcar owners and lessors, and the railroad companies,” Shaw said.
The NTSB reported that the train went over hot bearing detectors, which measure the temperature of the train’s bearings, as it moved. The temperature was 34 degrees higher than the surrounding air at a distance of about 30 miles from the derailment site. That temperature climbed to 103 degrees ten miles away. The temperature near the derailment was up to 253 degrees above the surrounding air temperature.
When the temperature exceeds 200 degrees above the surrounding air temperature, it is deemed critical. The NTSB states that the train must stop for an inspection at 115 degrees.
According to the NTSB report, the business’s rail crew “operated the train within the company’s rules and operated the train below the track speed limit,” and their “wayside hot bearing detectors were operating as designed,” the company noted.
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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Norfolk Southern Train” by James St. John. CC BY 2.0.