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Railroaded - The Norfolk Southern Disaster in East Palestine, Ohio Part Two

Precision Scheduled Railroad and the cost of extreme profiteering

Video Transcript

John Russell 0:00

Let's talk about the flaming axle that appears to have derailed the Norfolk Southern train in East Palestine, Ohio.

Doorbell video shows the axle overheating and failing about 20 miles before the train derailed. But initial reports say the crew was only notified about a mechanical issue shortly before the derailment. So why did that alert take so long to reach the crew if the axle was overheating for 20 miles?

We're going to follow the NTSB investigation as it unfolds. Their main job is to answer why this happened and their first update on this was issued last night. No surprise, they suspect the overheated axle to be at fault.

Rail workers have suggested that Precision Scheduled Railroading has a lot to do with all of this. PSR is the corporate practice that's been piling up profits for the railroads lately.

In short, it means cutting costs and doing more work with fewer people and safety resources. And it governs every system in the rail industry, including those designed to catch problems. So let's hear more from a union leader and 22-year railroad veteran.

Clyde Whitaker, Ohio State Legislative Director for SMART-TD, and 22-year rail roader 0:57

The defect detectors have changed. They created, several years back, what's called a trending defect detector.

Let's say defect detector number one, this car passes, it sees it heating up, it sends a signal to the dispatch center, and it talks to the next detector. The train passes the second detector, it sees the heat increasing, and there's another alarm sent. The train crew is not hearing any of this. It's kind of like an algorithm, so to speak. They're (dispatch) watching the car. What should be happening is the dispatch center notifying the crews to keep checking on this car.

But that ain't the times we live in, because it's “hurry up, get the train across the railroad, let's make the fat cats on Wall Street happy to turn a profit.”

And now if that crew hits the third defect detector, a car could be way too hot, and be in a catastrophic situation as this one was. Then the crew gets an alarm. And sometimes it's too late.

When it’s too late.

John Russell 1:46

So when something starts going wrong, the train crew doesn't always hear about it, dispatch does, and they tell the crew when to check it out. But PSR has put major strain on that critical system that's supposed to keep all of us safe from a disaster like this.

Clyde Whitaker 2:01

Everybody on a railroad, every craft, took an extreme hit with PSR. It consolidated all these dispatchers' territories into one desk. Where you might have had four or five dispatchers, you've got one guy handling... doing the work of five people.

The train dispatcher might have gone from covering about 200-something miles of territory to upwards of 1,000. They have all these trains on the screen they're taken care of. They could have heard this silent alarm that we don't hear on the train. And they're so busy, they can't get to that.

John Russell 2:31

Clyde is talking about an example of what the current conditions are like. We'll get answers as the NTSB investigation unfolds. But rail workers have warned us about the dangers of PSR, and extreme profiteering long before this disaster happened.

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No time for white-collar crime

Video Transcript

John Russell 0:00

I grew up in the same county as Norfolk Southern derailment. My video on it has some views. But I wanted to say this, I bartend part-time at a dive bar here in Appalachia. It's poor as hell around here, and it always has been.

John Russell 0:12

A good number of people who drink in my dive bar have been to prison for much less than being responsible for a train full of toxic chemicals exploding in the middle of a town.

Nobody from that company is going to go to jail.

Your train can explode in the middle of town. Your giant bank can wreck the global economy. Your drug company can push pills that kill more people than Vietnam. And you won't go to jail. You can actually make money doing those things.

John Russell 0:51

But a joint in your pocket? Or a scuffle in my bar? You report on any of that stuff and talk too loud at a press conference, and you'll go to jail.

John Russell 1:03

There'll be fines from Norfolk Southern for the derailment. The government will beat its chest about those fines, and the company won't bat an eye because it's the cost of doing business today. They plan for it. And in every section of our economy, billionaires and their companies run the world that way.

John Russell 1:24

And somebody doing something stupid and harmless will go to jail. And it's not right

We’re doing it LIVE. Tune in to my TikTok page to see the East Palestine town hall meeting live tonight (2/15/23) at 7pm EST.

Here’s the link to my page.

POV you’re about to be put on blast. Camera woman credit Jessica Roi.

Holding multi-billion dollar companies accountable is easier with money. Subscribe now for $5/mo, $60/yr, $0.17/day.

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John Russell