US Sen. Sherrod Brown visits Cleveland to address rail workers safety concerns

Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 6:06 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown and JD Vance are sponsoring legislation that would hold railroad companies accountable and increase safety on the tracks.

Brown was joined by rail workers at Wendy Park which overlooks Norfolk Southern’s railyard in Downtown Cleveland Monday.

He said the Railway Safety Act of 2023 will address the railroad safety concerns workers and communities have following the East Palestine derailment.

“The railroads believe it or not on a two or three mile train with 150 or 200 cars want only one engineer on that train,” Brown said. “No conductor, one engineer, that makes no sense.”

If the legislation passes, it will require two person crews on trains, increase training, and require rail companies to pay for wrong doings.

The senators also want to eliminate the unknown of what is inside the tankers.

The legislation would require railroad companies to provide advance notification of which hazardous materials are on board.

“Think about the firefighters, many of whom aren’t trained to combat hazardous materials in fires,” Brown said. “They don’t even know what’s in these trains because they haven’t had to tell the state.”

John Esterly, a fourth generation rail worker, said many of his colleagues worry about their safety on the job.

“For the first time in my career I sense genuine fear throughout the industry,” Esterly said. “Railroaders in Ohio are terrified that they will be a part of the next catastrophe or even worse they won’t make it home to their families that night.”

Esterly hopes regulations are put in place soon so the communities they serve are not fearful of another disaster.

“The last six weeks have been a dark chapter in Ohio’s railroad history,” Esterly said. “A symptom of an industry that’s turned its back on the safety of its employees and the communities it serves.”