In an ideal world, February 3, 2024, would serve as a day to reflect on the safety improvements the rail industry has made since Norfolk Southern’s derailment and massive chemical spill in East Palestine, Ohio. But the sad reality is that the rail industry has learned little from the lessons offered on the one-year anniversary of the East Palestine disaster.
Trains continue to derail, long trains continue to pose dangers to train crews and communities, rail managers continue to harass and intimidate workers, and the rail industry continues to spend big money to vehemently oppose all legislative efforts to make railroads and communities safer.
The rail industry is largely self-regulated. That has to change. The one-year anniversary of the East Palestine disaster serves as a stark reminder that rail workers — and the communities that they serve — still need several important safety improvements. Setting minimum safety standards, such as two-person train crews and wayside defect detectors, and establishing a maximum length for freight trains would help make our industry safe. These are lessons the rail industry should have learned from East Palestine. Instead, they have largely obstructed all efforts to improve safety while continuing to reap billions of dollars in profits. The BLET continues to work for stronger federal regulations and national laws that would hold the industry accountable. It’s time to stop putting profits over safety.