A Norfolk Southern Corp. train collided with a dump truck at a rail crossing today near Cleveland, killing its conductor and marking the company’s third serious accident in just over a month, all occurring in the state of Ohio, the company said.
The event came just a day after Atlanta-based Norfolk Southern released a six-point plan to improve safety conditions along its rail lines in order to prevent the recurrence of accidents such as the Feb. 3 derailment that spilled toxic chemicals in East Palestine, Ohio.
Congress is also acting to require stricter safety provisions for the rail industry, per the terms of a bipartisan bill introduced last month in the Senate.
And federal regulators are likewise tracking rail safety practices, with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) last week saying that “strong first steps from rail industry and Congress must be backed up with continued action.” In pursuit of those safety reforms, the DOT is calling for “an end to the rail industry’s ‘vigorous resistance’ to increased safety measures, which in the past has included lobbying and litigation to kill commonsense rail safety reforms.”
In a statement, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg repeated that call for stricter rail rules. “FRA, NTSB, and OSHA are investigating after a collision this morning killed a Norfolk Southern conductor in Cleveland. Our thoughts are with the family facing this preventable tragedy. Now more than ever, it is time for stronger freight railroad accountability and safety,” Buttigieg said in a release.
Norfolk Southern’s latest crash occurred early Tuesday morning at a facility operated by Cleveland-Cliffs Inc., a producer of flat-rolled steel and a supplier of iron ore pellets to the auto industry. “At this time, officials are reporting that the conductor was struck by a dump truck as a Norfolk Southern train was moving through a crossing at the facility,” Norfolk Southern said in a release. “Norfolk Southern has been in touch with the conductor's family and will do all it can to support them and his colleagues. We are grieving the loss of a colleague today. Our hearts go out to his loved ones during this extremely difficult time.”
The injured worker was 46-year-old Louis Shuster, a Broadview Heights, Ohio, resident who was an Army veteran and the father of a 16-year-old son, according to his union, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET).
In a statement, the union called for rail safety improvements, and said that an accident investigation was under way by both its own representatives and by the National Transportation Safety Board. “This was a tragic situation and it’s a devastating loss for the Shuster family as well as the members of this union,” BLET National President Eddie Hall said in a release. “All railroad accidents are avoidable. This collision underscores the need for significant improvements in rail safety for both workers and the public.”