Train Derailment Causes

How does train derailment happen?

Many of us have heard of the case when a train falls off its tracks and either lands out somewhere in the middle of no where or ends up causing massive destruction. While not all derailments are catastrophic, there are forces in place that cause this derailment to happen. Here we explore the different factors.

To start off, a derailment of a train does not necessarily means that it has fallen off the tracks. In fact, many derailments are minor. Typically, the derailment of a train is caused by a collision with the mechanical failure of the tracks like broken rails, mechanical failure of the wheels, or the train hitting another object. Of course, there are many other possibilities of why a train would go into derailment…such as a tornado sweeping it up or a cow standing in the way..but those are more extreme instances.

Let’s explore these cases a little deeper.

Broken rails

Rails are traditionally made up of two rails. They are, as one would assume, a fixed length apart in order for the train wheels to ride on them. A broken or even cracked rail can cause a train to go into derailment. How do the breaking or cracking of the track occur? There are many possibilities, such as excess speed, extreme weather, misalignment of rails, etc.


Defective wheels

If you have been driving a car for sometime you probably know how important wheels are to the vehicle. Unlike car wheels, train wheels go defective when there is a collapse of plain bearing s due to deficient lubrication and failure of leaf springs. There are of course protocols to avoid this type of occurrence.


Unusual track interaction

If there is an irregularity that is cyclical on the track that goes against the natural frequency of the route, it can lead to possible derailment. This becomes the most dangerous when a cyclic roll is set up by cross level actions, but vertical cyclical errors also can result in vehicles lifting off the track.

There are many other reasons for derailment such as improper operation of control system, harsh train handling and more. Proper maintenance of a train is the best way to keep a train from derailment, that is, maintenance that is in the control of the company maintaining.

If you have questions about injuries sustained during some type of train accident, derailment, or incident of any type, give us a call. We can help OR send you to the right person.

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Deadly Amtrak Train Crashes in Philadelphia While Traveling at 106 MPH

train-yardAmtrak’s Northeast Regional Train No. 188, which runs from Washington to New York, crashed at 9:23 p.m. on Tuesday in Frankford Junction, a rail yard in Philadelphia that is located 8 miles northeast of 30th Street Station, the city’s primary train station. There were 238 passengers and five crew members on board, and eight of them died as a result of the accident. In addition, more than 200 – at least 82 percent – of those on board were injured. Many of these individuals will likely consult a railroad injury lawyer in the days following the incident for legal representation.

The spot where the accident occurred is one of the Northeast Corridor area with the sharpest turns. Although the train was reported to have been traveling at normal speeds throughout its journey to Philadelphia, it actually picked up speed moments before the crash when it should have been decelerating at a significant rate. The speed limit heading into the turn is 80 mph while the speed limit in the curve itself is 50 mph. However, the train had sped up to 106 mph before its emergency brakes was used, cutting its speed to 102 mph before the train’s black box recorder stopped recording data three seconds later.

The train’s locomotive and all seven of its cars flew off of the tracks. The engine separated itself from the rest of the train while two of its cars remained upright, three were on their sides, one was practically upside down and the last one was leaning to its side.

Fire department personnel reported to the area five minutes after the accident, and most of the train’s occupants were able to exit the area by 11:15 p.m.

Amtrak suspended service between Philadelphia and New York, something that will remain in effect through at least Monday, while New Jersey Transit also stopped running trains between Philadelphia and Cherry Hill, N.J., That stretch is part of NJT’s popular route between Philadelphia and Atlantic City, N.J. Service on SEPTA Regional Rail was suspended in the area surrounding the train wreck as well.

No defects were found in the stretch of track leading up to the accident site when it was inspected by Amtrak officials hours before the crash. However, investigators have said that they cannot rule out factors other than the speed of the train as possibly playing a role in the accident.

With that said, “positive train control (PTC) could have prevented the crash,” according to Robert Sumwalt, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board. Although the train had PTC equipment and much of the Northeast Corridor is covered by tracks that use it, the portion where the accident occurred is not included in those sections. PTC was and is expected to be implemented there by the end of the year, but that is obviously too late to help those who have been affected by this crash.

PTC automatically slows trains to safe speeds for the track that is being covered, regardless of how fast the engineer has the train going or how it is otherwise being operated.

The day after the accident, the House Appropriations Committee turned down a funding increase for Amtrak. Democrat Nita Lowey told the Committee on Wednesday, “While we do not know the cause of the accident, we do know that starving rail of funding will not enable safer train travel.”

The area surrounding the crash was the site of another deadly crash in 1943. The Frankford Junction train wreck, which took place just a couple blocks from the one that occurred on Tuesday, killed 79 people while 117 others were injured. It is expected that many of those affected needed to consult with train accident attorneys when this terrible accident occurred.

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Congress is Considering Major Anti-Truck Safety Changes

18-wheeler-truckFedEx Corp.’s multimillion dollar lobbying effort appears to be paying off for the company. The shipping firm and similar freight handlers may be permitted to begin using larger truck trailers although experts say that this will lead to carnage on our highways. In all likelihood, 18 wheeler accident lawyers will find themselves representing more victims of big truck accidents.

Last week, a new transportation spending bill costing $55.3 million was revealed. Its purpose is to block several safety measures that are soon to be enacted and are opposed by the trucking industry. This comes during a period of rising 18-wheeler-related casualties even though highway safety is improving overall.

The bill permits larger capacity trucks and cancels regulations requiring freight-handling firms to have greater insurance coverage. The bill would also prevent the re-institution of a 2013 law requiring drivers to rest longer once they have reached their weekly driving limit.

New York senior Democratic Representative Nita Lowey, who is on the Appropriations Subcommittee, says that the freight industry received an early Christmas present. In 2014, the trucking lobby spent nearly $10 million pushing their agenda to Congress. It donated some $8 million to candidates, political parties and political action committees.

The members of the subcommittee are appalled by the industry’s ability to foist their program into budget legislation that has nothing to do with freight transportation. The new law attracting the most attention would permit piggy-back trailers to be a total of 10-feet longer than is currently allowed. Every truck accident attorney in Texas is certainly aware that these new standards will result in more accidents with heavier losses but no extra insurance provisions for motorists who are economically damaged or physically injured by these behemoth tandem trailers.

Jackie Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (AHAS), said that an increase in size will make the piggy-back rigs more difficult to handle and stop. The AHAS represents consumer advocates and insurance companies. She called the lobbying effort the most aggressive attack she had ever seen on safety. She noted research showing that tandem trailer rigs have 15 percent more accidents than single-trailer trucks.

Fred Smith, the CEO of FedEx, has quoted statistics that outline the benefits of the trailers. FedEx, Con-Way and other shippers commissioned a study that determined adding 5 feet to the length of both tandem trailers would reduce carbon emissions, conserve fuel and lower the number of trucks on the highways.

Dave Osiecki agrees with Smith. The executive vice president of the American Trucking Association says that the larger piggy-back rigs would provide environmental benefits and fuel economy. The longer rigs are necessary to meet the increased demands of online retailers for lighter packages according to the Coalition for Efficient and Responsible Trucking. That type of freight should increase by some 40 percent in the next 10 years. These twin 33-foot trailers are already on the road in Florida and South Dakota says the group that includes FedEx, UPS, YRC Worldwide Inc. and a handful of other companies that typically handle less than full truckloads.

There has not been a congressional hearing regarding these changes because the provisions have been attached to a federal appropriations bill, which must be passed. That avoids normal congressional scrutiny and increases the chance that the changes will be enacted. A Houston truck accident attorney will most likely be busy filing cases for people who have suffered from the new rules.

There has been an increase in deaths related to trucking accidents in each of the last four years. The trucking industry says the stopping distance is the same with the 33-foot trailers and that they are more stable. The White House has been warned that signing the bill would be equal to signing a death warrant for innocent motorists.

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New U.S. and Canada Oil Train Safety Rules

railroadThe United States and Canadian governments recently unveiled new rules to reduce the risk of serious accidents involving rail tank cars loaded with potentially dangerous cargo such as crude oil and other highly flammable liquids. Thousands of trains carrying such materials pass through suburban areas every year. The new regulations address a series of catastrophic train crashes that have occurred in the past several years, including four occurring in the first quarter of 2015. The most devastating FELA railroad accident took place in July 2013 when an oil train derailed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec across the border from Maine. Forty-seven people were killed, and most of the town’s central business district was destroyed. Canada’s Minster of Transport, Lisa Raitt, joined U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to reveal the new regulations.

New Tank Car Safety Regulations

Under new regulations, all new tank cars carrying volatile liquids such as crude oil and ethanol will require an outer shell, a fire-resistant thermal lining and thicker steel walls to prevent rupturing during an accident. All crude oil tank cars not meeting the requirements must be replaced or retrofitted. Nearly 20,000 DOT-111 tanks in ethanol fleets must be compliant by May 2023. All other cars used for flammable liquid transport will require replacement or retrofitting by 2025.

New Rules Regarding Electronically Controlled Brakes

An additional provision requires tank cars to be fitted with electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes by 2021. According to the Department of Transportation, the new brakes are superior to the air brakes and dynamic brakes currently being used. Trains that include a minimum of 70 cars with at least one car containing a volatile liquid will be required to have ECP brakes that stop every car in the train at the same time rather than sequentially. The new brakes are expected to decrease the risk of pileup and punctured tanks during an accident. They also help train operators come to a stop faster when an obstacle is encountered on the tracks. Officials state that ECP brakes are already in use by some railroads transporting other commodities. The new brake requirements go into effect in 2021 and will be extended to all trains carrying flammable liquids by 2023. New brake regulations only apply to the U.S., but Canadian railroad regulators are currently working on improving braking standards independently. Officials have estimated the total cost of the new regulations to be $2.5 billion.

Response and Criticism

For the most part, the new regulations have been welcomed. However, the railroad and oil industries have lobbied against some of the changes. The railroad association has estimated that installing the new ECP brakes would cost about $9, 665 per car. According to the Railway Supply Institute, which is also resistant to the change, the efficacy of the brakes is not proven and would not significantly increase safety. Response to the timeline for implementing the changes has also drawn criticism. Some members of Congress feel that it will allow dangerous cars to remain on the tracks for too long. The American Petroleum Institute has asserted that the car retrofit timeline is too short and will lead to shortages that impact both consumers and the nation’s economy. Some local officials have expressed concern about the lack of urgency implied by the five-year grace period.

Officials Hope for Fewer FELA Railroad Accident Cases

The new regulations are a long-awaited response to the many tragic injuries and fatalities that have occurred in recent years. How they will impact future FELA regulations is unclear. Injured railroad workers are not entitled to worker’s compensation but may receive reparations with the help of FELA railroad injury accident lawyers. Experienced train accident attorneys can also help workers determine the effects of the new rules on future accidents and injuries associated with railroad negligence.

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Oil Trains Need Safer Tracks To Reduce Derailments

track-injuryThe Federal Railroad Association says that at least one train jumps the tracks daily in the U.S. That is only good news to a FELA injury lawyer who represents injured parties in claims filed against the railway. Even the Association of American Railroads seems to be unaware of the frequency and severity of oil train derailment accidents. Their website states that new safety standards, including speed limits, inspections of tracks, route selection and staff training are part of their push to make the transportation of crude oil by train safer. However, that statement came days before two horrific crashes of 100-car tanker trains occurred in Ontario, Canada, and West Virginia.

In the first accident, which happened on a Saturday night, both the train and the tracks had been examined shortly before the train crashed. Obviously, the recent inspections did not have the desired effect. Two days later, another train wrecked in the West Virginia town of Boomer. Some 600 residents were forced to evacuate their community when the spilled oil polluted their water supply. It is still uncertain how much oil was spilled into the Kanawha River.

The likelihood of more and more severe accidents grows as the volume of trains carrying oil increases. The oil trains accidents in West Virginia and Ontario could be considered coincidental if there was not already a lengthy history of accidents involving trains carrying oil. During the last 18 months, over a dozen crude-by-rail trains have had accidents.

The volume of oil that is being spilled has grown as well. In 2014, the amount of spilled oil was greater than the amount spilled in the last 40 years. A 2013 FELA railroad accident in Quebec, Canada, caused considerable havoc when a 74-car train exploded. The accident killed 47 people and incinerated half of the small town of Lac-Mégantic. Train accident attorneys now refer to crude-by-rail trains as bomb trains.

These bomb trains have numerous safety problems. The biggest issue is that they are overloaded and traveling at speeds of 50 miles per hour and higher, which is far too fast. The inertia generated by the weight and speed practically guarantees a high rate of accidents.

The federal government is considering the implementation of a 40 miles per hour speed limit in urban areas, but it is anybody’s guess if and when that will occur. Anthony Swift, a staff lawyer at NRDC, said that safeguards would increase the cost of shipping oil by trains, and the oil industry is against any such regulations–even those that would ensure the safety of towns and villages along the trains’ routes.

Slow-moving trains can crash too. One derailment last spring in Lynchburg, Virginia, happened when the train was only going 23 miles per hour. That train dropped three cars into the James River and started a huge fire.

Another issue with the “bomb trains” is the older, problematic DOT-111 tanker cars that were being used on the train that exploded in Lynchburg. They are prone to rupturing due to their thin steel shells. Their fittings are likely to break in a crash. Train cars with tougher shells would be a good step toward safer oil transportation, but progress on that front is also creeping along slowly. Tougher tankers would help, but the train that crashed in Boomer was using modern CPC-1232 tankers that ruptured and exploded.

In the past, oil was shipped in so-called manifest trains along with cars filled with grains and other products. That helped mitigate the chain reaction of cars exploding after a wreck. However, the diverse payload made unloading the trains expensive. New York and California have tightened their regulations for oil trains. Other states will have to match or better their laws or else more and bigger disasters will be coming to a community near you.

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