January 11, 2018: AAR Released a Report Showing Decline in U.S. Rail Traffic

The Association of American Railroads released a report that shows U.S. rail traffic is down 4.6% from this time last year.
According to the report, of the 10 carload commodity groups that AAR tracks only petroleum and petroleum products have seen an increase over the previous year. Commodities such as coal, nonmetallic minerals, and grain have seen a decline between 6.1-9% when compared to this time last year.

Crude oil leads 2018 carloads week

January 14, 2018: CSX Spills Diesel Fuel in Selkirk

A fuel tank partially derailed in Selkirk at the CSX rail yard on Sunday. The tank car spilled 2,100 gallons of diesel fuel after a car coupling broke and forced the engine to jolt. This shifted the car off the rails and punctured the fuel tank.
Selkirk Fire Department Chief Joe Michaniw said most of the fuel actually spilled into the rocky track bed. The State Department of Environmental Conservation was on site to clean up the spill.  Chief Michaniw said “We contained it with absorbent booms and pads. That’s about all that can be done right now. There is no threat to the public. It’s too cold…..I’m sure they are going to have to dig it up to clean it up. they can’t leave it there. But for now, its contained.”

CSX train tips spills 2,100 gallons of diesel fuel in Selkirk

January 11, 2018: Families Receive Financial Settlement in Railroad Tank Car Death

A financial settlement has finally been reached between Agridyne LLC’s livestock food plant and the families of the two men who were killed in 2014 after breathing hydrogen sulfide gas inside a railroad tanker car. The two central Illinois families will share the $6 million settlement. OSHA fined Agridyne $266,000 for safety violations related to the incident.

Families to receive $6 million in railroad tank car death

January 11, 2018: Justice Dumas Rejects Motion to Acquit Two Defendants in Lac-Megantic Trail

Quebec Superior Court judge Justice Gaétan Dumas has rejected the defense motion to acquit two out of the three accused former Montreal, Main, and Atlantic railway employees that were involved in the Lac-Mégantic derailment that killed 47 people in 2013. While he admitted that he felt the Crown’s case against those two individuals was not persuasive, he also pointed out that it is not up to him to evaluate the evidence to see if it is strong enough to convict the accused. That job falls to the members of the jury, who are currently in the middle of deliberations.
Throughout the trial, which lasted for three months, the prosecution attempted to show that the supervisors on duty the night of the derailment had not properly done their jobs. The prosecutor, Véronique Beauchamp, said “Their failure to take the appropriate measures to prevent the train from moving was a key cause of the derailment.”
However, the defense attorneys feel that despite the prosecution putting up 31 witnesses during the course of the trial, the Crown had not met the burden of proof for the case against their clients. Gaétan Bourassa, attorney for defendant Jean Demaître, believes that since there was no rule in effect at the time of the derailment that would require engineers to inform their supervisors that the train had been properly secured, his client would have no reason to wonder if a sufficient amount of handbrakes had been set when the fuel train was left idling. Guy Poupart, defense attorney for Richard Labrie, also argued that none of the witnesses that testified said the railway traffic controller should have been informed by the engineer that they were leaving the site where the train was secured.
After reviewing the motion to acquit the two employees Dumas issued a statement saying “It’s not up to the judge to examine the quality of the evidence. It’s the jury’s job to determine if Demaître and Labrie … took steps to avoid bodily harm to other people.”
Prior to the start of the trial, Dumas ruled the TSB’s report on the derailment was inadmissible so the jury never heard the results of the report. The report actually identified 18 causes and factors that played a part in the accident. Some of those factors included gaps in training, employee monitoring and maintenance practices at MMA, Transport Canada’s failure to audit the railway often enough or thoroughly enough, and the fact that the rail line between Nantes and Lac-Megantic is not only the steepest slope in Quebec but the second steepest in Canada.

What the jury in the Lac-Mégantic trial didn’t hear

January 8, 2018: Norfolk Southern Railway Dealing with Fuel Spill in Tennessee Waterway

Norfolk Southern Railway has taken responsibility for more than 1,000 gallons of fuel that spilled into Citico Creek and the Tennessee River on Monday. The railroad is working to ensure the environmental impact of the spill is minimized. They deployed containment booms on Monday night to prevent more of the spill from entering the water.
Chattanooga Fire Department spokesman Bruce Garner said “The challenge is being able to take a spill like this, in excess of 1,000 gallons, and try to contain it as much as possible….the Tennessee River is a water source for the city of Chattanooga. We’re mindful of that, as well. We’re making every effort to make sure as much of it is contained and cleaned up as possible….if there’s any silver lining to a petroleum product being released, it is that it tends to want to float and stay up high, which is pretty far away from the intakes.” Garner and Tennessee American Water spokeswoman Daphne Kirksey said that despite the spill being located downstream from the spill they do not feel it will be a threat to the drinking water supply. So far none of the water samples tested show any signs of contaminated water entering the city ‘s water supply.

More than 1,000 gallons of fuel spill into Tennessee waterway

January 5, 2018: Former Louisiana Attorney General and Kahn Swick & Foti, LLC Investigates the Officers and Directors of CSX Corporation

Charles C. Foti, Jr., former Louisiana Attorney General and current partner in the law office of Kahn Swick & Foti, announced on Friday that his law office has begun an investigation into CSX’s decision to hire Hunter Harrison as CEO in March of 2017.
Mr. Harrison, who passed away in December from what was described as severe complications from a recent illness, was given a four-year contract that included an $84 million reimbursement for the lost salary and benefits from his previous job, payment of a tax indemnity that could be as high as $23 million, and tens of millions in salary and incentive compensation. When CSX requested an independent doctor review Mr. Harrison’s medical records prior to hiring he refused but was hired anyway.
KSF is looking into concerns that CSX’s officers and/or directors may have breached their fiduciary duties to the shareholders by having prior knowledge about Mr. Harrison’s health condition and not disclosing that information. The investigation will also look into whether or not they failed to exercise due diligence during the hiring process.
Anyone with information that could assist KSF during its investigation is asked to call KSF at 1-877-515-1850 or email KSF Managing Partner Lewis Kahn at lewis.kahn@ksfcounsel.com.

CSX INVESTIGATION INITIATED by Former Louisiana Attorney General: Kahn Swick & Foti, LLC Investigates the Officers and Directors of CSX Corporation

 

January 4, 2018: CSX Dealing with Hazmat Spill in Alabama

A tank car carrying sulfuric acid split in half while in CXS’s Tarrant Alabama rail yard. Birmingham Fire & Rescue was contacted but later told by CSX that they would not be needed. CSX issued a statement informing the public that there was no safety risk to the community or the waterways.

CSX investigating sulfuric acid spill at Tarrant rail yard

November 27, 2017: CSX Train Derails in Florida Spilling Thousands of Gallons of Molten Sulfur

On Monday morning a CSX train derailed near Lakeland, Florida. The nine railcars that left the track were carrying molten sulfur, which is used to make rubber, detergent, and fertilizer. Approximately 3,000 gallons of molten sulfur and 12,000 gallons of cooking oil were spilled during the derailment. Officials believe it was caused by a faulty bearing on an axle of one of the cars. It was reported that moments before the derailment a passerby called 911 to report a wheel sparking on the train.
There were no reported injuries and CSX will be monitoring the air quality around the accident site to ensure the safety of nearby residents.

CSX Train Derails in Florida Spilling Thousands of Gallons of Molten Sulfur

November 7, 2017: Nearly 40 Million Fire Extinguishers Recalled

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a recall for 37.8 million Kiddie fire extinguishers due to concerns that they may not function properly during an emergency. They have been sold across the United States over the past several decades. Some of the models being included in the recall have been recalled for unrelated issues in the past.
There have already been over 400 reports of the fire extinguishers malfunctioning, including `16 injuries and one death.
According to The Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are two issues with the fire extinguishers. The first concern is the possibility that the nozzles can fly off and become dangerous projectiles. The second issue is that the plastic handles and push buttons can become clogged. This can prevent the extinguisher from discharging properly.
The recalled extinguishers will be replaced by Kiddie at no cost to the consumer. The replacement extinguishers are made using metal parts to prevent these issues from recurring.

Massive government recall covers 37.8M Kidde fire extinguishers

Complete List of Recalled Models

October 5, 2017: Guide to Previous and Current Penalty Amounts for FMCSA Violations

In April the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced the fines for violations would be increased due to the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015. The following document lists 68 violations along with both the former and current penalty value for each violation.

2017 Inflation Adjusted Fines

October 1, 2017: Experts Criticize CSX and Union Tank Car Co. for Derailment in Maryville in 2015

On November 1st a federal judge will issue his ruling on whether or not he will allow two expert witnesses, James Whelan, a mechanical engineer, and Al Blackwell, a former railroad track inspector and train crash inspector, to testify at the trial against CSX Transportation and Union Tank Car Co. that is expected to begin on November 13, 2017. The lawsuit stems from a train derailment and chemical fire in Maryville on July 2, 2015.
The derailment, which both parties agree was caused by an overheated roller bearing, lead to one of the tank cars containing the toxic chemical acrylonitrile to become punctured. The leak caused a fire that burned for 16 hours. While there were no fatalities there were numerous people, including the plaintiffs, hospitalized for inhalation-related injuries.
During the pretrial hearing, Mr. Whelan testified that the roller bearing in question had been in use for 21 years at the time of the derailment. However, the grease used to lubricate the bearing during manufacturing has a useful life expectancy of 10 years. Mr. Whelan said “You risk death, injury, or something like this….The grease went 11 years beyond its useful life…..A lubricant has a defined life, it doesn’t matter who made it. It is defective after 10 years.”
He went on to criticise CSX because he feels the workers should have seen the excess grease leaking out of the bearing when the train was still in Ohio. The leak should have prompted them to change the bearing.
Mr. Blackwell feels CSX did not install hot bearing detectors close enough on the tracks to be effective. He feels to be effective they should be placed between 10-15 miles apart. However, CSX policy states they should be placed every 20-25 miles. The detectors on this stretch of track are 26.5 miles apart. Mr. Blackwell feels there were “plenty of spaces” CSX could have placed these detectors along that stretch of track.  Additionally, Mr. Blackwell feels CSX crew members should have seen the sparks that would be coming from the overheated bearing. “It is my opinion there were several sight lines available…They could have seen the sparking that was going on.”

Mechanical engineer, former train worker criticize CSX, tank car owner over Maryville train derailment

August 28, 2017: CVSA Prepares for December 2017 ELD Implementation; Announces April 1, 2018, Effective Date for Out-of-Service Criteria Related to ELD Rule

The deadline for commercial vehicles to begin using an electronic logging device is set for December 18, 2017. The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance has said that while its inspectors and roadside enforcement personnel will begin documenting violations in their reports and may issue citations to the drivers found not to be in compliance, they will not start placing those drivers out of service for ELD violations until April 1, 2018.
Drivers currently using a grandfathered automatic onboard recording device will be permitted to continue using it until December 16, 2019.
This decision was made in an effort to allow the motor carrier industry, shippers, and roadside enforcement time to adjust to the new requirements before vehicles are placed out of service. This phased-in approach has been successful in the past when significant changes were implemented.

CVSA Prepares for December 2017 ELD Implementation; Announces April 1, 2018, Effective Date for Out-of-Service Criteria Related to ELD Rule

August 16, 2017: Federal Regulators Reach Out To CSX Again

The Surface Transportation Board has reached out to CSX again with concerns over the railroad’s performance and lack of improvement. CSX will now be expected to provide a detailed schedule, including milestones and key actions, for the remaining implementation of the company’s new operating plan by August 24, 2017.
Three weeks ago STB sent a letter to Hunter Harrison, the CEO of CSX, requesting weekly phone calls to discuss solutions for the problems the railroad is currently experiencing following a series of customer complaints about the unpredictable and slow service, excessive congestion in the key hubs of New Orleans and St. Louis, and rail cars sitting idle for days.
While the railroad has participated in the weekly telephone calls with STB it has failed to provide any hard data. According to STB, that lack of data has made it difficult to assess the magnitude of problems and pace of recovery for the railroad.
Each railroad is required to submit weekly service data reports and based off of that information it does not appear that the CSX’s performance will simply continue to deteriorate. All of that data will be published on STB’s website for shippers, stakeholders, customers, and other railroads to review.
Harrison has made several major changes to the railroad since taking over as president and CEO. As part of his precision railroad system, he has closed rail yards, removed 900 locomotives and 60,000 freight cars from service, laid off 2,300 employees, and plans to lay off an additional 700 by the end of the year.

As problems persist, federal regulators want more details from CSX

August 10, 2017: CSX Closing or Downgrading Major Facilities

Despite only being appointed the CEO of CSX Railroad five months ago, Hunter Harrison has made drastic, and some would say destructive and dangerous, changes to railroad operations.
In an effort to improve the railroad’s bottom line he has eliminated layers of management and plans to close and downsize rail yards across the country.
Hump yards are currently on the chopping block because he believes they are inefficient and closing them would save the company $10 million. The ones that manage to stay open are being converted to flat switch yards.
A hump yard is used to sort trains. The cars are slowly pushed up an elevated rise. From there a crewmember disconnects the cars and they roll downhill into different tracks that sort them by destination. The speed on the downhill slope is controlled by devices called retarders. They mechanically slow the cars so they maintain a safe speed. Converting these yards to a flat switch yard means the employees will do more on the ground work to get the cars sorted.
A signal maintainer that currently works at a hump yard in Indiana said “One of the big problems is that management was actively being encouraged to disregard safety standards and being threatened with their jobs if dramatic changes didn’t occur. They increased the speeds of the cars that go down through the retarder. Normally those cars take 5 seconds but management said they should take 2 seconds to pass….there were more derailments than I have ever seen in this yard. I worked there for five years. If you are working in the yard, this is dangerous and if something were to happen there are only two ways in and out for emergency services. One of those entrances is constantly blocked by trains and the other often is as well.”
Another railroad worker said “Men are constantly being threatened with their jobs on the line. We are told to switch cars like back in the 1950’s when injury and fatality rates were high and it’s just a matter of time before we have a headline of injury or fatality. Men are getting cussed up one side and down the other, and shown no absolute professionalism in the least little way.”
Some of the most worrisome changes CSX has made recently include ending the three step protection, lifting the ban on getting on and off moving equipment, safety meetings are no longer being held at the start of shifts, the discontinuance of the brake stick, and the refusal to provide work boots and some safety equipment for employees. CSX is increasing the speed of work but appears to have no regard for the safety of its workers.

CSX railroad closes and downgrades major facilities

August 2, 2017: CSX Stops Paying for Certain Safety Equipment for Employees

CSX has once again made the headlines for another controversial decision. Action News Jax obtained an internal document stating as of Tuesday CSX will not be paying for its employees’ safety boots or high-visibility clothing any longer.
CSX employees feel they are working in increasingly unsafe conditions and the moral is low. Alisa Wilkes, an attorney representing CSX employees, said “It’s hard to get up and go to work in the morning when you know that it’s another dime out of your pocket that you’re going to have to spend.”
A spokesperson for the railroad released a statement pointing out that CSX will continue to supply hard hats, safety vests, and eye protection for employees. The statement went on to say that the change was being made to underscore the importance of shared responsibility between CSX and its employees.

CSX Stops Paying for Certain Safety Equipment for Employees

August 4, 2017: CSX Unions Unhappy with CEO’s Letter or Changes

Last week Hunter Harrison, president and CEO of CSX, issued a letter to its customers apologizing for the recent disruptions in service. The letter seemed to lay the majority of the blame on the employees. As a result, the employees and the unions representing them are not happy with Mr. Harrison.
The portion of the letter that was perhaps the most upsetting reads “While most people at the company have embraced the new plan, unfortunately, a few have pushed back and continue to do so. This resistance to change has resulted in some service disruptions … As we move forward, we will continue to address these internal personnel matters and our teams have recommitted themselves to reaching out to those affected to work through any service issues and resolve them as quickly as possible.”

One of the union groups representing CSX employees, The International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation (SMART),  released a letter of their own making it clear that they are unhappy that CSX has refused to accept responsibility for its customers’ service disruptions. In part, the letter read “Our members, the ballast line employees, rightfully take your comments as a personal attack on their professionalism. They have worked through numerous operations challenges and changes to their work routines. Despite harsh treatment, furloughs and repeated violations of their collective bargaining agreements, it has not deterred the employees from fulfilling their duties. If anything, our members are pushing forward even though management is providing limited guidance and resources.”

At this time, none of the other 12 unions have released statements of their own. However, Clark Ballew, the spokesman for the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees – Divsion of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said “SMART was spot on with its assessment. Morale is low and not just in the track department but throughout the system. (Harrison) is reaping what he’s sowed. Workers are disgruntled and tired.”

CSX unions not happy with CEO Harrison’s letter or changes

August 2, 2017: CSX Train Carrying Liquefied Asphalt Derailed in Pennsylvania

A CSX train derailed in Hyndman, Pennsylvania early this morning and slammed into a residential garage. The accident caused a fire that was still burning more than two hours later. The train was traveling from Chicago to Selkirk, New York. Some of the railcars were transporting flammable liquefied asphalt, although at this time it is not known whether any of the six derailed cars were among them. Residents in a one-mile radius have been evacuated and an emergency shelter has been set up at the Hope for Hyndman Charter School. It is unknown at this time how long the residents will be prevented from returning to their homes. Thankfully there have been no reported injuries.
Rob Doolittle, a spokesman for CSX, stated “CSX’s top priority is to work cooperatively with first responders and other officials to protect the public’s safety, and CSX personnel are on the scene assisting first responders, providing information about the contents of the train and expertise on responding to railroad incidents.”

Residents Evacuated After Freight Train Derailment, Fire

July 27, 2017: CSX Abolishes Safety Rules – Leaving Employees Concerned For Their Safety

CSX Railroad undergone many changes since the new CEO, Hunter Harrison, joined the company. Over 2,000 jobs have been cut so far and more are expected to be cut in the near future. As a result of the reduced manpower, trains have been consolidated which has made them considerably longer – some of which are more than 2 miles long. Neighborhoods are being blocked and residents are prevented from entering or leaving their neighborhood for several hours. Emergency vehicles are not able to enter the neighborhoods during that time either. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has issued citations to CSX for the delays.

A Jacksonville news station recently received an internal company document from a CSX employee that shows CSX has eliminated several safety rules that were designed to keep their employees safe.
Among the safety rules no longer in use are the three-step rule and the brake stick.
The purpose of a three-step rule is to provide an added safeguard to prevent rail cars from moving when an employee is working between or under the cars.
The brake stick prevents railroad crew members from having to climb up and down train cars to turn the hand brakes. CSX employees feel that removing these safeguards has made their jobs more dangerous.

Alisa Wilkes, a personal injury attorney currently representing several CSX employees, said the safeguards that CSX has abolished are ones that most railroad companies have in place because they are important safety rules. Ms. Wilkes stated, “I have had clients from other railways that have been hurt because these rules haven’t been in place at other railways so I do know that it’s coming.”
When asked about the changes to the safety rules a spokesperson for CSX said “The safety of CSX employees and the communities where we operate is our highest priority. CSX continuously evaluates the operating rules that guide employees in safely completing their tasks, to ensure the rules meet the railroad’s changing requirements. Safety is the most important factor in evaluating changes to operating rules and we continue to apply best practices across our operation. Our goal is for every employee to return home safely at the end of their shift.”

Action News Jax Investigates: CSX safety concerns

July 20, 2017: Florida Institute of Technology receives $64,000 fine for hazardous waste violations

The Florida Institute of Technology received several hazardous waste violations which resulted in fines totaling $64,100.
During an inspection of the pharmaceutical chemistry lab, physics lab, organic metallic synthesis lab, physical organic chemistry lab, and the Knight lab conducted in August 2016, EPA and state inspectors located containers of old chemicals that had peeling labels, residue on the lids, waste leaking from containers that had no indication on whether or not the contents should be classified as hazardous waste, and leaking or deformed containers that held formaldehyde, bleach waste, biological stain waste, and alcohol/water waste.
In addition to those discoveries, inspectors reported the school did not perform weekly inspections of the containers that are used to store hazardous waste, the hazardous waste was not properly labeled while being consolidated, and waste was stored without a permit or proper labels.
This is the school’s third hazardous waste violation that has resulted in large fines since 2008.

Florida Institute of Technology receives $64,000 fine for hazardous waste violations

July 13, 2017: Pipeline rupture spills 50,000 gallons of crude oil in Bastrop Texas

During maintenance work on the Longhorn pipeline system for Magellan Midstream Partners, a contractor punctured the pipeline causing approximately 50,000 gallons of Permian Basin crude oil to spill. The incident occurred about four miles southwest of Bastrop Texas.
The Longhorn pipeline, which is responsible for carrying crude oil from the Permian Basin in West Texas to the Houston area – the nation’s biggest refining center, will be out of service for an unknown period of time. Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston, said “If it’s down for a substantial period of time, it’s going to impact crude oil available in the Houston Market. If it was a significant problem, some refiners might have to reduce their runs.”
Magellan released a statement saying “Efforts are in progress to contain the crude oil release to minimize environmental impact and to ensure public safety. The oil has been contained in a small area around the pipeline release and no crude oil has reached any water.”
As a precaution, residents living within a mile of the spill were temporarily evacuated. Thankfully, everyone was permitted to return to their homes later that evening. Magellan said they would reimburse those residents for any costs incurred during the evacuation.

Pipeline rupture spills 50,000 gallons of Permian Basin crude oil in Bastrop County