Railroads are no longer part of the cultural mainstream in the United States in the ways they were a few decades ago. Much travel and cargo transportation now involves planes or commercial trucks on surface roads rather than railway travel. However, thousands of people and countless tons of merchandise and raw materials continue to cross the country every day on train tricks. Every day, trains contribute to domestic travel and the movement of raw materials and merchandise over land.
Safely operating a railroad requires a lot of effort, from scheduling to physical maintenance. When companies make mistakes or cut corners, derailments and other dangerous scenarios occur. Safety issues with railway transportation often don’t reach the attention of the average person. However, there are, on average, three derailments that occur somewhere in the country every day.
Most of them only result in minor delays or property damage issues. Still, some of them, like the ones that have made headlines in recent weeks, can have catastrophic environmental consequences. Those high-profile derailments have actually led to renewed calls for railway safety from workers and regulators alike.
Railway workers have warned about safety for years
Those who work for the railroads are aware of how common derailments are and how understaffed individual trains and facilities often are. They have tried to draw attention from the general public and regulatory officials with minimal success.
Precision scheduled railroading, which involves keeping the minimum number of workers possible on the clock, contributes to everyone’s risk. Company practices have reduced the number of railway workers by roughly 30% compared to 2016.
The official records report 1,164 derailments in 2022. Of those derailments, quite a few were the result of human error. Overwork, inadequate training and many other factors can make railway work quite dangerous. Reduced staffing levels and increased dependence on technology have also contributed to the high number of incidents that occur on domestic railways. Even in scenarios that don’t make the news, workers may end up hurt.
Railway safety issues put workers at risk
Those who help maintain or operate railroads may end up seriously injured in an incident that would potentially be preventable with better company practices. Unlike most employees that get hurt on the job, railroad workers won’t typically qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. They may need to make claim in civil court.
Tracking industry issues can help railroad workers to avoid injuries and can improve the likelihood of filing a successful claim if they do get hurt.