The risk of railroad accidents concerning ethanol tank cars

Over the past month alone two separate train cars transporting ethanol have derailed. While the first incident did not involve any injuries and no hazardous materials were spilled, the second crash was more severe. Several cars ruptured and erupted into flames following the event, and a reported 1,600 gallons of the product was released into nearby waterways. These events have caused officials in Connecticut and across the country to take a closer look at the practices involved in transporting ethanol, and the potential of dangerous railroad accidents in relation.

Responders were not immediately able to investigate the second accident due to the amount of explosions that took place. They instead were forced to let the fires burn themselves out before approaching the scene. While the area in which the accident took place seems to have been isolated, a similar accident could wreak havoc on a populated area. Along with the possibility of catastrophe in a residential area, these accidents also pose a  significant threat to railroad employees.

Reportedly, federal regulators have incorporated rules to phase out certain types of tank cars that are often used to transport similar materials, noting they may be unsafe and/or risky. The National Transportation Safety Board has apparently raised concerns about the danger of these cars over the past several years. Although plans are in place to phase out the unit cars, some shipping companies are reluctant to retrofit their existing fleets.

One major concern in similar railroad accidents is the safety of employees. Workers are often forced to operate these trains despite the risks involved. If a person is seriously injured in a similar accident, he or she may face significant hardships as a result. When facing a similar situation, a railroad employee may choose to speak with an experienced attorney in Connecticut for assistance in pursuing the compensation in which he or she may be entitled to receive.

Source:, “Two Ethanol Trains Derail, and One Explodes, as Industry Embraces Riskier Practices“, March 26, 2017

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