DOT releases proposed rail reforms in wake of Ohio train derailment

Published: Feb. 21, 2023 at 1:36 PM CST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -Secretary Buttigieg outlined several initiatives to make the rail industry more safe Tuesda, February 21. Some of the proposals are rules the DOT is working on, but some reforms will require cooperation from Congress and rail companies themselves.

“The railroad industry has a track record of fighting safety regulations tooth and nail,” Buttigieg said. “That’s gotta change. They have to change their posture to work with us, not against us when it comes to raising the bar, so that you don’t have the kinds of incidents that people of East Palestine are now dealing with.”

Buttigieg is calling on rail companies to replace cars meant to contain hazardous materials more frequently and to participate in a system that allows workers to report near accidents without retaliation. He is also asking Congress to increase the maximum fine the DOT can issue to rail companies.

The DOT itself is working on a rule to require two crewmembers for most rail operations and a focused inspection program for high hazard trains. Buttigieg says train derailment is a significant problem in the U.S.

“They have definitely been going down in response to rigorous safety regulations in the past, but still too high,” Buttigieg said. “Every one is one too many.”

The independent National Transportation Safety Board is tasked with investigating the root cause of the crash. The DOT is investigating if rail company Norfolk Southern committed any safety violations.