(NEWSnet/AP) — A coal-train derailment in Virginia in early July prompted Norfolk Southern to rethink the way it responds to problems with overheating bearings.
The decision comes months after an overheating bearing caused a derailment in Ohio.
National Transportation Safety Board said the railroad changed its rules a day after the July 6 derailment to take a more cautious approach when a hot bearing is found. After the derailment, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen union was critical of Norfolk Southern's response. Dispatchers told the crew to move the train 13 miles to a siding down the track, even after the crew confirmed a bearing on one of the railcars was overheating, and that's when it derailed.
The Virginia derailment was relatively minor, with only 19 cars coming off the track and none of the coal spilling. The situation in February in East Palestine, Ohio, was far more extreme, with hazardous chemicals spilling from ruptured tank cars and officials deciding to blow open five tank cars filled with vinyl chloride because they feared they might explode.
The Virginia train crew had enough time to stop the train safely after a trackside detector triggered an alarm about an overheating bearing. The conductor confirmed the problem, according to NTSB's preliminary report.
Rules Norfolk Southern issued the following day state that in a situation when any damage is noticed regarding a hot bearing, the railroad will send a mechanical inspector to examine a car before it is moved, and the train will move no faster than 10 mph with the crew stopping at least every three miles to reinspect the bearing.
Norfolk Southern spokesman Connor Spielmaker said the changes were made as part of the railroad’s effort to become “the gold standard for safety in the railroad industry,” but he didn’t address why these changes were not established after the East Palestine derailment.
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