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US Government to Investigate Growing Length of Freight Trains

US Congress will be investigating the safety of freight trains that are growing increasingly longer operated by CSX, Union Pacific, and other major railroads to increase profitability, according to the US Government Accountability Office.

As of 2017, train length is unregulated in the United States. Any effort to add rules to restrict train length will face strong railroad industry opposition because railroads like to increase the length of trains to increase profit margins; longer trains mean more efficient fuel use, better use of locomotive power and more rail cars filled with product without needing more crew.

In addition to the study being conducted by GAO, the Federal Railroad Administration is increasing its inspection presence at CSX railyards. An FRA spokesman did not explain the concerns over the length of CSX trains, but he noted that increased inspections could be due to complaints about safety and a large number of railroad accidents in recent months. The spokesman noted this month that there have been more accidents involving long freight trains that are being investigated by the FRA and NTSB.

Members of Congress reported this year that they have received more complaints about safety at railroad crossings, as well as complaints about traffic jams at crossings.

CSX told investors in October 2017 that its freight trains are 400 feet longer since March. That is when the new CEO launched a new plan to increase profits and streamline rail operations. However, FRA data shows that train accidents at CSX and incidents per miles traveled are at the highest in 10 years.

Concerns about safety have increased since a fiery derailment of a 180 car CSX freight train in Pennsylvania in August 2017. There also was a derailment on Nov. 27 of a CSX train in Florida that spilled molten sulfur.

CSX employees and unions have argued that many train conductors do not have the experience to safely operate such long trains.

Our View

Our railroad accident personal injury attorneys in Virginia are concerned about the increasing length of freight trains. The longer trains are, the more likely it is that a derailment could occur. Also, a longer and heavier train will take much longer to stop in case of an emergency. It is very common for railroads to push the rules to increase profits, and they are known to cut corners regarding safety if it means more money for shareholders.

If you have been injured in a railroad accident, be sure to read our books on railroad accidents and railroad worker accidents. You may be entitled to compensation when a railroad is negligent and causes your injuries in an accident.