The big derailment of a train carrying hazardous chemicals in East Palatine, OH has gotten new attention for hotbox detectors (HBDs.) These are electronic boxes placed along a railway that scan the wheels of cars as they go by to see if the wheels are getting too hot. Overheating is a symptom of failing bearings or other maladies in the wheels. At least 5 accidents since 2021 have been related to burnt journal bearings, which the HBD is supposed to detect.
But these detectors have to be maintained. There is always the possibility of a mistaken reading, or of no reading at all. And someone has to check these detectors frequently to ensure they are functioning.
Accidents on rail lines are not common, which speaks to the care being taken. But even one big accident with hazardous waste can destroy a town. So any failure in the maintenance or observation of the hot box monitors is quite serious.
One question unions have raised is whether there are enough qualified workers to inspect the hot box detectors often enough. Perhaps this will come out in the case of Norfolk Southern and this accident. It would be awful if major rail lines were not following through on careful inspection of their monitoring devices.
The baby formula shortage is deplorable. And it’s nice that the government is trying to figure out how to help get more product into the supply chain. And it’s good to rethink restrictions on imports and get them moving.
But let’s not forget the real cause of the problem. It’s the fact that Abbott Labs would not agree to implement process changes required to reopen the plant that was shut down by the FDA for failing to meet standards for production.
So this is a case when industry and business failed to look out for the welfare of babies.
They failed to monitor the production properly to prevent contamination. And then they argued about how to fix it rather than jumping in to do the job fast. Was he cost the reason?
There are some times when firms just have to step up, admit a problem, and fix it fast. That did not happen here.
We should be glaring at Abbott for failing to prevent this mess we have to fix for them.
And I’m sure there are many other cases in other fields, most not so inconvenient and harmful as a shortage of baby formula.
A sign of the disruption of container shipping processes is the dumping of cargo in Singapore. This article discusses some of the issues in East Asian ports.
While there’s hope that ocean carriers will divert ships there, we don’t know that it will happen, and with ships tied up waiting at other ports there may not be enough vessels to follow the short-term need.