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Norfolk Southern CEO says he helps elements of latest rail security payments

Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw testifies at a listening to earlier than the Senate Surroundings and Public Works Committee on defending public well being and the surroundings within the wake of the Norfolk Southern prepare derailment and chemical launch in East Palestine, Ohio in Washington, D.C., the USA, March 9, 2023.

Aaron Schwartz | Xinhua Information Company | Getty Photographs

Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw on Wednesday advised senators that his railroad firm helps elements of two bipartisan rail security payments that got here within the wake of a derailment final month of a prepare carrying poisonous supplies in Ohio.

Testifying in entrance of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Shaw stated the Railway Security Act and the RAIL Act embrace “measures with the potential for significant enchancment, comparable to funding extra coaching, higher superior notifications, accelerating the section out of older tank vehicles, and far more.”

Shaw didn’t totally endorse the Railway Security Act, which incorporates provisions calling for two-person crews on all railroad locomotives. “We’re not conscious of any information that hyperlinks crew dimension with security,” Shaw stated Wednesday.

“If the railroads had it their manner — all the way down to a one-person crew — they usually decreased the conductor place to ground-based, that means an individual at a pickup truck driving to the location, that places engineers at risk,” stated Clyde Whitaker, an official on the SMART Transportation Division union, in response. “It additionally places the response time and the evaluation of the problem at risk.”

The laws was launched by Sens. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, within the weeks following the Feb. Three East Palestine, Ohio, prepare derailment, which launched poisonous chemical compounds into the encompassing space.

In ready remarks, Shaw stated he agrees in “precept” with parts of the laws, comparable to “establishing efficiency requirements, upkeep requirements, and alert thresholds for security sensors.”

“We encourage even stricter requirements for tank automotive design,” Shaw stated in ready remarks. “There are vital alternatives for superior know-how to boost rail security, and we encourage Congress to contemplate extra analysis into on-board rail automotive defect detection know-how.”

Brown, who spoke on the listening to together with Vance, recommended the issues with Norfolk Southern have been broader, pointing to 579 violations throughout one current fiscal 12 months, with the corporate paying a median high-quality of $3,300.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine stated on the listening to that he agrees “with the adjustments within the legislation” that the invoice proposes, in addition to the RAIL Act proposed final week by Reps. Invoice Johnson, R-Ohio, and Emilia Sturdy Sykes, D-Ohio. DeWine, a Republican, stated lawmakers added his request to incorporate a provision requiring rail carriers to supply advance notification and knowledge to state emergency response officers concerning the items they’re transporting.

Ohio sued Norfolk Southern final week, in search of damages, civil penalties and a “declaratory judgement that Norfolk Southern is accountable,” Lawyer Basic Dave Yost stated.

Making enhancements

Shaw, who testified earlier than the Senate Committee on Surroundings and Public Works two weeks in the past, stated in ready remarks that the corporate will improve its scorching bearing detector community, deploy extra acoustic bearing detectors, speed up its inspection program and enhance practices for detectors. Norfolk Southern has stated the detectors have been working as designed in East Palestine, however it’s including 200 extra hotbox detectors.

Nationwide Transportation Security Board Chairwoman Jennifer Homendy stated the company helps a faster shift away from an outdated commonplace of tank vehicles, in addition to improved data sharing between emergency responders and railroads.

“Even one rail automotive of any hazardous materials justifies notifying emergency responders, not 20 or greater than 35 loaded tank vehicles, which might comprise 1 million gallons of hazardous supplies,” Homendy wrote in ready remarks.

The NTSB on Monday launched three preliminary reviews on current incidents, together with a prepare derailment in Alabama on March 9, a collision with a dump truck on March 7 that killed the prepare conductor and a derailment on March four in Springfield, Ohio.

Homendy recommended increasing the definition of high-hazard flammable trains, in addition to offering real-time data for responders and residents.

In his remarks, Shaw addressed the controversial follow of precision scheduled railroading, which has been criticized as a technique for cost-cutting and driving a low working ratio. Shaw stated the corporate has taken “a extra balanced approached to service, productiveness, and development” by “aggressively” hiring craft railroaders.

“Not is figuring out defects the objective of inspections however fairly decrease the time it takes to carry out them or the elimination of them altogether,” stated Whitaker. “Compound this with the truth that the railroads are on a decided course to develop these trains to astronomical lengths and you’ve got a predictable final result, and that final result is East Palestine.”

From 2017 to 2021, railroads lower their workforce by 22% and decreased funding within the community by 24%, although accident charges elevated by 14% over the time interval, in keeping with Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., who chairs the committee that held the listening to Wednesday.

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