There are several lessons that can be learned from the NTSB’s field hearing and final report on the East Palestine derailment, the subsequent fire and release of hazardous material. The key point is last year’s tragic derailment wasn’t a case of error by a train crew, it was a series of errors made by railroad management.

The report shows that it is wrong to have long trains travel long distances without any human being inspecting the rail cars.

“PSR”, the operating model adopted by Norfolk Southern and the nation’s other large railroads, contributed to this derailment. Under PSR or Precision Scheduled Railroading, the railroads have boosted profits by cutting the workforce by nearly a third over the past seven years. As a result, they have reduced the number of thorough inspections of rail cars, along with other service cuts. Additionally, because of PSR, the largest railroads have lengthened trains to as long as three miles from end-to-end. A study of Federal Railroad Administration data released this month found that longer trains have a 24% greater risk of derailing.

The East Palestine report also shows that there has been an overreliance on technology. The report frequently mentions wayside defect detectors. These devices break, they often get removed or turned off during trackwork. Detectors aren’t always monitored. There is no firm rule on how far apart they should be spaced. These defect detectors can be a great tool to assist car inspections, but they shouldn’t substitute for rail workers conducting thorough inspections.

This report was about so much more than an overheated bearing. The ultimate lesson here is a derailment and its tragic aftermath that has been borne by a small town in Ohio could have happened on any railroad, at any time, in any community within the sound of a train whistle. Congress, federal regulators and state legislators can lessen the risk by passing long overdue rail safety reforms, including the Railway Safety Act. Further delay is not acceptable to locomotive engineers and other railroaders, and it shouldn’t be tolerated by the residents of the communities served by these railroads.