Railroads Resistant to Adoption of Lifesaving PTC Technology

Established technologies could provide added protection for railway workers and the communities through which freight trains travel. Positive train control (PTC) systems provide automated anti-collision features and can slow or stop trains to reduce the risk of crashes and derailments. These systems are designed to protect the safety of rail workers. For those injured in railroad accidents, the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) provides a mechanism for obtaining compensation and holding employers accountable for failing to protect workers. Retaining the services of a FELA injury lawyer can help injured employees receive the financial support necessary to manage their recovery and to handle any incidental expenses resulting from these events. Proven Technology for Train Safety Positive train control systems were first recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in 1970 after a 1969 head-on collision between two commuter trains in Connecticut resulted in four deaths and more than 40 injuries. The NTSB has put PTC systems on its Most Wanted Lists every year with no response from the train industry. Since 1970, numerous collisions, derailments and other accidents have caused death and destruction across the U.S. and Canada. In the opinion of safety experts, many of these tragic incidents could have been prevented if PTC systems had been implemented throughout the railroad industry. Resistance from Railway Companies However, the railroad industry has proven surprisingly resistant to the implementation of these systems. Some factors in this lack of response by rail companies include the following:

  • Cost issues for installation, implementation and training
  • The need for consistent standards applicable across the industry
  • Designation and availability of radio channels needed for PTC implementation

The NTSB has been active in working to eliminate these obstacles and has held forums intended to bring industry leaders together to identify solutions. The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 requires the implementation of PTC systems for all trains carrying hazardous, toxic or flammable materials by 2015. To date, however, only a fraction of train lines that meet these criteria have announced their readiness to comply with these federal requirements. New Risks Add to Urgency Recent train accidents and derailments involving oil transport have increased governmental scrutiny of the railroad industry. Oil train accidents have caused serious environmental damage and have resulted in numerous deaths and injuries in recent years:

  • The Lac-Mégantic derailment on July 6, 2013, killed 47 people and destroyed 30 buildings in the downtown area of the community.
  • More than 400,000 gallons of oil were spilled and numerous residents were evacuated after two trains collided and 18 train cars exploded in Casselton, North Dakota, on December 30, 2013.
  • On November 8, 2013, Aliceville, Alabama, was the scene of a derailment and explosion that spilled oil into the wetlands and continues to contaminate the area surrounding the crash site.

The number of tanker cars currently transporting oil in the U.S. amounts to forty times the number in use in 2008. These figures are expected to rise even higher over the next decade. The sudden increase in oil transport is due in large part to the drilling operations in the Bakken oilfields of North and South Dakota. PTC systems are needed to prevent accidents and reduce risks to the public and to the workers who perform their duties on these trains. For employees who have been injured in a FELA railroad accident, seeking compensation can provide valuable closure and financial resources with which to manage the recovery process. Consulting a qualified railroad worker injury lawyer to pursue injury claims can provide added help in dealing with regulatory requirements and managing courtroom proceedings effectively. By holding railroad companies accountable for their failure to implement PTC systems, injured train workers can help to promote change within the industry and to prevent further accidents in the future.