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A truck driver was killed in this October 16 BNSF derailment in Pueblo, Colorado.Photo: Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office


Rail safety laws are receiving renewed attention after a truck driver was killed in a BNSF derailment near Pueblo, Colorado, on October 16. The derailment caused a railroad bridge to collapse onto a major highway — crushing the semitruck, spilling coal, and leaving mangled rail cars across the roadway. The highway, Interstate 25, was completely closed for several days.

After the derailment, a coalition of Colorado State Senators wrote:

“As Senators who have placed a heightened focus on transportation issues in both the legislature and our private careers, we are disappointed, but not surprised by [the October 16] derailment in northern Pueblo County. We are aware of numerous safety issues with our rail system in Colorado, which is why earlier this month, the Transportation Legislative Review Committee voted to approve legislation for the upcoming session of the General Assembly to address those concerns including limiting train length, increasing safety inspections, and including detectors to identify train defects in real time… We are committed to seeing this legislation’s passage as quickly as feasible, so that we may immediately work to reduce the risk of accidents like the ones in East Palestine and Pueblo.” The coalition includes: Senate Assistant Majority Leader Faith Winter, D-Broomfield, and Senators Lisa Cutter, D-Jefferson County, Nick Hinrichsen, D-Pueblo, Sonya Jaquez Lewis, D-Longmont, and Kevin Priola, D-Henderson.

BLET Colorado State Legislative Board Chairman Paul Pearson has been working with the State Senate on the aforementioned rail safety legislation. It would limit train length to 8,500 feet, among other safety improvements. The state passed a two-person crew bill in 2019.

In its preliminary investigation into the October 16 fatality, the National Transportation Safety Board said a broken rail likely contributed to the derailment. Members of the BLET Safety Task Force have been granted Party Status to assist the NTSB with its investigation. Five locomotives were pulling 124 train cars at the time of the derailment. The train crew was not injured. Killed in the crash was truck driver Lafollette Henderson, 60, of Compton, California. He is survived by six children and 15 grandchildren.