Federal regulators said Friday that railroads need to re-examine how they assemble their trains after a string of derailments in recent years that were at least partly caused by the way empty and loaded cars were mixed together with locomotives.
Heavy cars at the back of a train can push and pull against empty cars in the middle of a train as it goes over hills and around corners. Those forces have become more of a problem as the industry increasingly relies on longer trains with a wide variety of freight aboard.
Another factor complicating the issue is the industry’s practice of placing locomotives throughout trains. The locomotives can amplify the forces if they’re not used correctly.
The Federal Railroad Administration’s advisory cites six derailments since 2021 where those forces were a factor. They include a Norfolk Southern derailment near Springfield, Ohio, last month and a 2021 Union Pacific derailment that forced the evacuation of Sibley, Iowa, for three days. Regulators say these kind of derailments are happening with increasing frequency.
But regulators didn’t mention the fiery February derailment near East Palestine,