Massive Quebec Train Crash Shows Horrific Flaw in Tanker Design

While first responders search for the missing victims, investigators are searching for answers in Saturday’s train derailment that devastated the small town of Lac Megantic, Quebec. Investigators are looking into what may have caused an oil train derailment that killed 13 and left nearly 40 people missing.

Of the 73 tanker cars on the train, five tankers exploded, causing chaos for those on board.  The tankers used on this train are DOT-111 tankers, and have had a history of puncturing on impact. The previous danger of the tankers is causing speculation into the safety of their presence on the railways. In addition to tanker safety, investigators are looking into the role the train engineers may have played in the derailment, as preliminary evidence shows the train was moving above the designated speed. The disturbing crash sheds light on the need to higher the safety standards and take research on transportation more seriously when there's a high potential for destruction.

The tankers used on this train are similar to the trains used across the United States. Despite flaws that report back to 1991, the DOT-111 remains a go-to for rail companies looking to ship products long distances. Yet the potential for explosion and environmental contamination isn't significant enough to improve the thin material that can easily cause havoc. This accident however has brought these flaws into reality as the effects of the crash go beyond those on the train. The damage didn’t just affect those on the train, the explosion caused over 2,000 residents to be evacuated in the small Quebec town.

The train crash highlights the responsibility to not only improve safety measures and equipment in transportation, but to take safety studies more seriously. Similar to the crash of the Asiana Flight 214 in San Francisco, occurring just a day after, responsibility of the crew is being evaluated. The Rail World Inc. train company believes that the engineer properly secured the break when parking the train that evening; however the shutdown of the engine may have caused the break to release the train to barrow downhill toward Lac-Megantic. The combination of human-error and equipment malfunction in both scenarios highlights the need to reevaluate the current machinery being used to carry people in potentially danger speeds or situations.

Although the evidence will not be concrete until the train can be thoroughly examined, the event serves as a red flag in the current standards for transportation. While accidents are bound to occur, equipment malfunction and oversight can be provided to prevent future devastation that is currently hurting the people of Lac Megantic. 

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Amy Anderson

As an alumni of Oklahoma State University and graduate student of Johns Hopkins University, I'm interested in feminist theory and education reform. I'm a constant gender studies enthusiast and current educator of young minds in Baltimore.

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