Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y, on Wednesday urged the National Transportation Safety Board to broaden its rail safety investigation from Norfolk Southern to other large railroad companies after last month’s derailment in East Palestine, Ohio Did.
In a letter to NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy, Schumer said it is “absolutely clear” that the industry is “in dire need of a full and comprehensive investigation.”
He cited a “troubling and deadly combination” of factors, including more than 26,500 accidents and incidents in the past five years, as well as more than 30,000 staff cuts.
“I urge you to expand your investigation into the safety practices of all Class I freight railroads operating across the country, including BNSF Railway, CSX, Union Pacific, Canadian National, Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern; and issue findings, recommendations do, and regulations to improve rail safety across the country,” Schumer wrote in the letter, first reported by Politico.
Category I railroads are the largest freight railroad companies, as measured by operating revenue.
“As we’ve seen firsthand, the freight rail industry has at times been dangerously speeding and flouted regulations, putting millions of Americans across the country at risk,” Schumer said.
NBC News has reached out to the NTSB for comment on the letter.
The NTSB launched an investigation into Norfolk Southern’s safety practices and culture earlier this month following the derailment of a train carrying toxic chemicals in eastern Palestine and other similar accidents.
Hours before Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw appeared at a congressional hearing last week about the Ohio derailment, another company train derailed in Calhoun County, Alabama. The Calhoun County Emergency Management Agency said there were no reports of injuries or dangerous leaks.
This was the third derailment involving Norfolk Southern since the previous month.
In his letter, Schumer asked Homendy to provide regulations and standards to improve safety, a recent regulatory push that could have contributed to the derailment across the country, and if the industry had to introduce its own safety protocols. There is a culture of ignoring.
“Statistics and data on accidents and incidents for Category I railroads can only tell part of the story,” he wrote. “They tell us how many accidents or incidents have occurred over the past five years – 26,563 – but they don’t tell whether those accidents happened in populated areas or how many gallons of oil were spilled or toxic chemicals were released.”
“They tell us how many grade-crossing accidents happened, but not if any because the tracks were seriously corroded or poorly designed. They can tell us how many were fatal – 2,768 – but not why,” he said. Or if company policies may have prevented them.”
The Ohio Attorney General’s office sued Norfolk Southern in federal court on Tuesday, alleging negligence caused the derailment.