Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor on his letter to National Transportation Safety Board Chair, Jennifer Homendy, urging her to investigate the safety practices all seven Class I freight railroads, following the announcement of an investigation into Norfolk Southern. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
This morning, I sent a letter to the National Transportation Safety Board Chair, Jennifer Homendy, urging her to expand NTSB’s investigation of Norfolk Southern into a comprehensive review of all seven Class I freight railroad companies’ safety practices.
Though the NTSB is currently investigating the toxic derailment in East Palestine and Norfolk Southern’s questionable safety culture, I want to make something very clear: Norfolk Southern isn’t the only rail company that has spent years lobbying to loosen regulations, neglect safety upgrades, and lay off workers.
Norfolk Southern is just one example of a dangerous, industry-wide trend within the rail industry that puts profits over people’s safety.
In the last five years alone, there have been over 26,500 accidents and incidents in the rail industry, but instead of prioritizing safety, the industry cut over 30,000 employees from the workforce—roughly 20%.
We need the NTSB to expand its investigation because the current data can only tell part of the story.
The data tells us how many accidents have occurred, but we want to know if they occurred in populated areas, and how many gallons of oil were spilled or which toxic chemicals were released.
We also need to know which of these accidents occurred because the tracks were severely degraded or poorly designed.
We also want to know which negligent company policies contributed to the 2,700 deaths in recent years, and if any of those could have been prevented.
These are just some of the questions that my letter asks—ones that can only be answered by a complete, comprehensive, and rigorous investigation of the freight rail industry.
I hope NTSB expands its investigation to include the safety practices and culture of all Class I freight railroads. It’s a necessary step to assure Americans that freight rail safety will improve.
In the meantime, I again commend my colleagues—Senators Brown and Vance of Ohio, Fetterman and Casey of Pennsylvania—for introducing bipartisan legislation to improve rail safety and provide a check on the railroad industry. I will continue working with them to move it forward.