Maryland residents likely recall a train derailment on May 12 that claimed the lives of eight people and injured approximately 200 others. A subsequent inquiry found that the accident was caused by the train rounding a turn at a high speed, and the tragic accident may have been prevented if the train involved had been equipped with an automatic braking system known as positive train control. The system uses GPS and radio to monitor a train's speed, and brakes are applied automatically if the system anticipates a risk of derailment.
A law was passed by Congress in 2008 that gave railroads until the end of 2015 to have PTC systems installed on all of their trains and tracks, but a report issued on August 7 by the Federal Railroad Administration reveals that only three railroads have submitted the plans necessary to meet the deadline. Railroads say that their efforts to comply with the law have met with several challenges, and they have made calls for the deadline to be delayed.
Trains operated by several railroads sometimes use the same tracks, and this has made it difficult to develop a working system. Railroads also say that the government has made installing PTC difficult by sometimes refusing to allow them to install the necessary radio transmitters next to tracks. Government regulators have responded to the complaints of railroad companies by pointing out that they have been calling for systems like PTC to be installed for decades.
While any regulations calling for more sophisticated safety technology should be welcomed, workers with hazardous jobs will always have a higher risk of suffering workplace injuries. An experienced workers' compensation attorney could assist injured workers with the sometimes confusing claims procedure, and they could advocate on their behalf during hearings if their claims are contested by their employers.