- Freight train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio due to a failing wheel bearing
- National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the incident
- Train was carrying a load of plastic pellets and travelling at 47 miles per hour
- US Federal Railroad Administration does not currently set standards for such detectors
- NTSB plans to hold a “rare” investigative field hearing in East Palestine this spring
Freight Train Derailment in East Palestine, Ohio
A freight train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio due to a failing wheel bearing that overheated without initially triggering the alert threshold set for the railroad’s defect detectors.
Investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the incident, which occurred on a Norfolk Southern freight train carrying a load of plastic pellets.
Two of the three detectors recorded the rising temperatures of the overheating wheel bearing, but only the third detector in East Palestine, Ohio, recorded a temperature high enough to trigger a warning to the train crew.
The temperature increased by 65°F (36°C) between the first and second wayside detectors but no warning or information was sent to the train crew.
Norfolk Southern typically requires train crews to stop and inspect warm wheel bearings if their temperatures are between 170 and 200°F (76-93°C). The freight train was travelling at about 47 miles per hour (76 kilometres per hour) at the time of derailment.
US Federal Railroad Administration
The US Federal Railroad Administration does not currently set standards for such detectors.
Norfolk Southern said in a statement that its wayside detectors trigger at a temperature that is “among the lowest in the rail industry.” Train worker unions have voiced safety concerns over the major US freight railroad companies having implemented precision-scheduled railroading strategies that pressure crews to perform train inspections faster.
The investigation has not discovered any operational issues with the wayside detectors.
Federal investigators are still looking into the possible causes of the wheel bearing failure.
The NTSB plans to hold a “rare” investigative field hearing in East Palestine this spring.
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