In a letter to Buttigieg, Senators JD Vance and Marco Rubio raised the issue of “precision-scheduled railroading.”
After a huge train accident in Ohio, which caused a horrific wreck and the spilling of toxic chemicals, Republican senators JD Vance of Ohio and Marco Rubio of Florida are demanding answers.
Letter from Republican senators to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg raises questions about whether the 150-car Norfolk Southern freight train had enough personnel and whether regulations from the previous administration played a role in the derailment.
Precision-scheduled railroading (PSR), a method used by Norfolk Southern and other rail companies to increase efficiency and drive down costs by moving more freight with fewer workers, has been cited as a possible factor in the accident by current and former rail workers, industry observers, and reform advocates. We’ve expressed our displeasure with PSR and the administration’s emphasis on efficiency over resilience in the country’s transportation and infrastructure.
After Fox News’ request for comment to the Department of Transportation went unanswered, Fox News decided to pursue the matter further.
According to Rubio and Vance, the three-person crew of the derailed train at East Palestine, Ohio, consisted of a locomotive engineer, a conductor, and a conductor trainee. The letter claimed that while the train was about 20 miles west of East Palestine, security camera footage showed “sparks or fire below at least one of the carriages before the disaster.” The incident may have been due to “a technical issue in one of the rail cars,” they claimed.
The Republicans questioned whether the train’s two crew members and a trainee were sufficient, citing “reports of an increase in derailments, as well as the incidence of total accidents or safety-related problems per track mile.”
Senators said that while those figures have increased, labor expenses have decreased because Class I rail businesses have “lost roughly one-third of their personnel.”
Finally, Rubio and Vance requested information from Buttigieg about the Department of Transportation’s efforts to prevent “lower performance and resilience” due to PSR, the impact of PSR on the overheating rate of axle bearings, and the condition of U.S. steel rails.
They pointed out that the derailed train wasn’t labeled as a “high-hazard flammable train,” despite transporting combustible materials, and they wondered if PSR usage merited rethinking the categorization system.
Buttigieg was given a month to respond to the senators’ letter.