Saturday, April 7, 2018

Amtrak: Lack of Concern for Safety (2018)

Amtrak: Lack of Concern for Safety (2018)


Amtrak Logo
On Sunday, February 4, 2018, Amtrak passenger train 91 was heading south in South Carolina when it unexpectedly derailed and crashed into another unmanned freight train. The disaster killed two passengers and injured 116 people. In addition to the lives that were lost and affected, 50,000 gallons of fuel spilled, negatively impacting the environment. Although this situation is a tragedy that seems like it was caused by someone’s miscalculations or a mistake, some may think otherwise.

National Transportation Safety Board has been criticizing Amtrak for its weak safety culture, after several Amtrak accidents. Not long before the derailment in February, an Amtrak train in Seattle derailed in December, killing three passengers. According to the NTSB Chairman, Robert Sumwalt, the crash “could have been avoided if positive train control […] had been in place” (CNN). By overlooking a few, what seem miniscule, factors, Amtrak has caused multiple lives to be lost.

Investigations are currently still going on regarding Amtrak’s mishaps and people will not stop until they find the reason why in such an advanced technological culture, deadly derailments are ongoing for one particular train company. This was the third crash in under seven weeks that Amtrak has experienced. According to the New York Times “The passenger train, heading south, was diverted onto a rail siding where, while apparently traveling below the speed limit, it crashed into a CSX train.”, this was all stemmed from a crucial signal system being down at the time of the crash. There are many unanswered questions in this case, which are currently being investigated by the U.S. government. 


Amtrak crash leaving two dead any many others injured
           The stakeholders involved in this controversy are Amtrak and the passengers that use their trains. Clearly, there have been many Amtrak derailments recently that company is starting to get a bad reputation. Also, with the news that with simple precautions, these deaths could have been prevented, Amtrak’s could face charges. In addition to Amtrak being affected, the passengers on the trains are never guaranteed their safety given the circumstances. Some other stakeholders would include the shareholders who rely on the company to keep a good reputation and provide safe transportation. Once this reputation gets tarnished it is very hard to regain the trust of the public. This event also affects other commuter rail companies. This type of accident make people believe that riding the train can be dangerous. This will lead to people to stop riding trains in general, not just one specific company. Going along these lines anyone who works for any train department will be negatively impacted by this situation. When typing in Amtrak into google images one of the first pictures that shows up, is a picture of a train collision. This just goes to show how the reputation of Amtrak is already tainted and negatively impacting the Stakeholders.  


           Friedman’s Individualism states, “Business actions should maximize profits for the owners of the business, but do so within the law”. This situation is completely against Individualism because the business actions Amtrak are taking are ruining their reputation, which does not maximize their profits, also by overlooking safety precautions, they are not acting within the law. These situations are providing a direct profit loss as well as long term profit lost for the future. With this event having similar reoccurring situations it is continuously going against Friedman’s Individualism, and the company does not seem to care that it is losing profit. For the company to agree with Individualism they would have to pay more attention to rail safety and focus on getting trains from A to B without having any issues. That would directly and indirectly lead to sales increases.  


            Immanuel Kant’s Basic Principles of Kantianism states, “Act rationally-don’t act inconsistently in your own actions or consider yourself exempt from the rules”. By not ensuring that their passenger trains were safe, Amtrak was not thinking rationally. Also, they did not think that they would be fully responsible for the deaths of the passengers because the derailments were “accidents”. No one plans for a train to derail but there are certainly ways to prevent such a tragedy from happening. By deliberately ignoring safety procedures Amtrak was not looking out for the best interest of its shareholders. People’s lives were taken in this situation that could have been avoided.
Typical Commuter Rail Train


            Utilitarians believe that all parties involved in a situation should be satisfied. In the case of the Amtrak derailments, not all parties can, or will be satisfied. The families of the deceased will never get their loved ones back or potentially the justice they deserve by seeing Amtrak suffer the consequences. Looking out for the best interest of everyone involved was not something Amtrak was doing. They were not looking out for themselves or anyone else involved in the crash. Amtrak takes pride in itself saying how it is a “safe and reliable transporter,” but recent records have shown otherwise.

Virtue Theory:

            The Virtue Theory focuses on four characteristics: courage, honesty, temperance, and justice. Many do not believe that Amtrak is being honest about their safety regulations, in addition to lying about not knowing the consequences of not following these regulations. Also, justice has not been served for those families who were affected by the derailments. Amtrak does show courage by ignoring safety procedures but it is not the type of courage you would want a company to have.  


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