Washington, D.C.–Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor on the Federal Railroad Administration heeding his calls and opening an investigation into the safety practices of Class 1 freight railroads and the dangers that railroad workers currently face. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
After the tragic derailment in East Palestine in February, and several other derailments in recent months, I called on the FRA to launch an investigation into the safety practices of all Class I freight railroads.
I have good news: the FRA has just announced that they will heed my call, and do a thorough investigation of safety practices within all Class I freight railroads. They will investigate the culture of misconduct within the Class I rail companies and issue a report on their findings, just as they did for Norfolk Southern.
I thank them for their attention on this very critical issue. These assessments by the FRA will be a good first step to identifying the problems in individual rail companies, as well as the endemic problems permeating across the industry.
In the last five years alone, there have been over 26,500 accidents and incidents, almost 13,000 injuries, and over 2,750 fatalities attributed to rail incidents.
But instead of prioritizing safety, the rail industry has cut over 30,000 employees from the workforce – roughly 20%.
Instead of prioritizing safety, the rail industry has prioritized stock buybacks to wealthy stock shareholders and lobbied for loosened regulations. Billions of dollars in stock buybacks instead of money going to safety. Instead of money going to higher than necessary employees to keep the rails safe.
So, it’s clear there’s an alarming trend of the rail industry putting profits over people, which reinforces the need for a full audit of industry practice.
So, I hope that the rail companies will take heed of the FRA’s assessment and make changes needed to protect our communities.
In the meantime, I want to thank my colleagues Senators Brown and Vance, as well as Senators Casey and Fetterman, for their work on the bipartisan Railway Safety Act. This legislation was reported out of committee last month, and I look forward to working with colleagues on both sides to move it forward.