If 2014 was any indication, train accident attorneys are going to be busy in 2015. Since records for these spills were first collected way back in 1975, more oil trains spilled large amounts of oil in 2014 than any other year on record. President Harrison’s 1908 FELA railroad accident laws guarantee that railroad workers receive higher compensation than is commonly offered for workers’ compensation claims. This is because railway jobs are more dangerous than most jobs.
The spills in 2014 were responsible for about $5 million in damages and 57,000 gallons of lost crude oil. A FELA railroad accident is serious and has staggering consequences. For example, an oil train catastrophe polluted the groundwater in a Pennsylvania town, destroyed a building in that same town and generated a huge fireball that caused havoc in a Virginia town. When scanning the records closely, more oil was spilled in 2013, but there were more accidents in 2014, which is troubling.
Freddie N. Simpson, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division President, said that improved track maintenance is crucial to lowering the number of oil train derailments that are hampering America’s oil delivery systems. Data released by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) says that somewhere around one-third of all train accidents are the direct result of poor track conditions.
The FRA’s statistics verified that in 2014, 1,220 reportable train derailments happened, which caused almost $200 million for repairs and the cost to replace track and equipment. There were also deaths, damage to private property and environmental problems. When all the derailments were examined, it was determined that almost 40 percent were caused by faulty track. A FELA claim lawyer would have a pretty easy time arguing a case of negligence against the railway system.
FRA decides how fast trains may travel depending on the level of track maintenance performed by the railroad companies, which is up to them. No other entity has a say in how much track maintenance a railway company may perform. Simpson said that accidents caused by tracks in poor condition happen most frequently and are the easiest to prevent.
He further stated that in 2014 there were 649 main-line train accidents in the United States, not including the high volume of low-speed wrecks taking place nearly every day in train yards. Some 330 were caused by derailments and a whopping 47 percent (155) were reportedly caused by the track itself.
Simpson warned that main-line tracks cover the U.S. and go through thousands of cities, towns and communities where there are people living their normal lives. The key to cutting down on track-related accidents is to raise the bar for track maintenance to a new level. The railroads do not have a very good batting average, and track-caused derailments are a true threat to our nation, even those that do not involve highly explosive oil products. Railroad safety can be improved tremendously by improving the track itself. The workforce, technology and better track standards are available. The higher standards need to be implemented.
In 2008, only 9,500 carloads of crude oil were transported across the U.S. In 2013, that number lurched to over 400,000. This has caused significant wear and tear on the tracks, and it requires the railways to repair the tracks before they are so worn-out that they become even more dangerous than they already are. Railroad companies have been enjoying record profits, and it is time they reinvest their profits back into the tracks. According to Simpson, profitability is a byproduct of safety. The railways claim they cannot afford the repairs, but the communities they criss-cross will surely end up paying in lives and property damage as a result.