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.
Joanna Marsh·Wednesday, March 01, 2023Ohio train derailment spurs rail safety advisory on hot box detectors – FreightWaves