In August 2014, two trains collided in Arkansas killing two crew members. Could technology available now but stalled by the railroad industry have prevented this tragedy?
Positive Train Control (PTC) is a set of systems to enhance train travel safety for passengers, crews, and surrounding homes and property. The systems can automatically slow or stop trains when dangerous conditions arise. They’re designed to prevent head-on collisions, including crashes of commuter trains, and train derailments due to excessive speed. A few parts of the United States currently use PTC.
Congress mandated the systems in 2008 following a horrific crash of a freight train and a commuter train near Los Angeles, which killed 25 people and injured 100 more. That year, Congress passed the Railway Safety Improvement Act, requiring trains to implement PTC by December 31, 2015.
Since that accident and the recent fatal Arkansas crash, several more deadly train collisions occurred, many of which may have been prevented by PTC. Earlier in 2014, the Association of American Railroads, the rail industry’s main lobbying group, reported that about 20 percent of the nation’s railroad trucks will meet the 2015 deadline.
It’s not clear how much, if any, of Missouri’s 4,400 miles of railroad track is or will be covered by PTC by the deadline.
This is not a new issue. The National Transportation Safety Board first recommended installing a form of PTC over 40 years ago.
So why haven’t these safety systems been installed across the country by now? Why is the railroad industry dragging its feet? In the years ahead, U.S. oil production will continue to increase, and the flammable cargo shipped by rail across the country will only make railroad travel more dangerous.
The families of railroad crew members and passengers killed in preventable accidents deserve justice. If you lost a loved one in a railroad collision, you may want to consult an attorney experienced investigating train crashes, who can pursue just compensation from those responsible.