During an interview aired on Thursday’s broadcast of CNN’s “The Lead,” National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chair Jennifer Homendy stated that while electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes would make things safer, when it comes to the East Palestine, Ohio derailment, “even with ECP brakes, the derailment would have occurred, the fire would have ensued, and the five vinyl chloride tank cars would still have to be vented and burned.” And, at best, they possibly could have “reduced damage where a couple of cars could have remained on the tracks,” but modeling still needs to be done to determine this.
Host Jake Tapper asked, “[E]ven with the 20 cars with toxic materials, under current safety rules, that train still did not qualify for designation as a high-hazard flammable train, which would have gotten it — or required at least, a newer, safer braking system. So, that rule as it stands right now clearly was inadequate for the citizens of East Palestine. Why not add the newer braking system to any train carrying hazardous material, not just those with more than 20 cars of hazardous material?”
Homendy answered, “The NTSB has looked at electronically controlled pneumatic braking for a number of years and we did some testing as well. Certainly, it would improve safety. But for this investigation and for this derailment, ECP brakes would not have prevented the derailment. The wheel bearing failed on car number 23, so even with ECP brakes, the derailment would have occurred, the fire would have ensued, and the five vinyl chloride tank cars would still have to be vented and burned. What it could have done was maybe reduced damage where a couple of cars could have remained on the tracks, but we’re going to do some modeling along with the Federal Railroad Administration to determine just that.”
During a Twitter thread on February 14, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg stated that the Department of Transportation is “constrained by law on some areas of rail regulation” like the ECP brakes rule.
We’re constrained by law on some areas of rail regulation (like the braking rule withdrawn by the Trump administration in 2018 because of a law passed by Congress in 2015), but we are using the powers we do have to keep people safe. https://t.co/xRyyYpGOwd
— Secretary Pete Buttigieg (@SecretaryPete) February 14, 2023
Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett