Montana railroad accidents see sharp decline - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Montana railroad accidents see sharp decline

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HELENA - Crashes and fatalities associated with railroads are on the decline in Montana, state rail safety inspectors told the Montana Public Service Commission on Tuesday.

Data from the Federal Railroad Administration shows that railroad-related crashes and/or incidents fell from 198 events in 2008 to 98 events in 2017, a 55% decline. 

During that same period, the number of railroad employee on-duty injuries dropped 63% from 100 injuries in 2008 to just 37 injuries in 2017.

“At a time when train derailments are making headlines across the country on a regular basis, it’s encouraging to see the PSC’s efforts to promote a strong culture of railroad safety taking hold, “said Commissioner Tony O’Donnell (R-Billings). “While these numbers are a dramatic improvement over previous years, there’s more work to be done to ensure the integrity of the rail system in Montana.”

Railroad-related accidents and incidents are falling at a much faster rate in Montana than most other states in the Pacific Northwest. Out of eight states in the region, only Alaska and Wyoming have experienced larger declines in the number of events over the last decade.

PSC Railroad Inspector Dave Jackson attributes Montana’s strong performance to an improvement in rail safety education, as well as stronger relationships between regulators and stakeholders.

“Our partnerships with industry members and organizations like Operation Lifesaver have played a major role in driving down rail accidents and employee injuries,” he said. Everyone has a role to play in rail safety from the mechanic changing out a defective wheel on a locomotive to the school bus driver who drives through a crossing on their daily route.”

The PSC employs two certified inspectors who are responsible for enforcing state and federal regulations through inspections. In 2017 the program completed 360 inspections and identified 1,424 defects, resulting in the issuance of 14 total violations.

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