Jason Cox with the Transportation Communications Union testified Friday during the second day of the NTSB hearing that the railcar that caused the derailment wasn’t inspected by Norfolk Southern even though it passed through three railyards where qualified inspectors were working.
Cox said the lack of inspections reflects changes Norfolk Southern has made since 2019 to slash the ranks of car inspectors and other employees, and that the company increasingly uses a loophole in federal regulations to rely on train crews to complete inspections instead of experts trained to do that work. He said train crews look at just 12 points on a rail car instead of the 90 to 105 points a carman checks.
Furthermore, Cox said, carmen are pushed to inspect a car in just one minute instead of the roughly three minutes they had before the railroad started making operational changes over the past four years. Norfolk Southern’s representative at the hearing, Jared Hopewell, denied the railroad has a time limit for inspections. Cox cited a deposition from a Norfolk Southern manager that confirmed a one-minute goal.
Mobile housing units, tanks, trailers, and chunks of the rig litter location. It is unusual for a rig move, but the company in control of drilling operations moved some of its own material before hiring us to complete the job. We stroll around the pieces, investigating the tools. The Wildebeest points at things that could kill me.
“See that cable there?”
“Yeah,” I say.
“That snaps. It’ll swing back and whack you clean in half.”
“Fucking kill you.”
A few steps later, “See that bucket of grease there?”
“Better not get that on you. Hell, no. Breathe that shit for too long . . .”
“Fucking kill ya.”
He points at what looks like a winch. “That’s called ‘the dead man,’” he says. “They use it to lower a tool. It goes miles into the ground. To make sure the drill string is going straight down. I once saw a guy get pulled through there. When they carted him out, he was this big around.” He makes a circle with his hands the size of a football.
“Fucking killed him,”
I say. “Oooaahhhhyyyeeaaaahh.”
The Good Hand
Michael Patrick F. Smith