Railroad execs got money, in part for ‘record’ train length

When Norfolk Southern’s derailed train spewed toxic chemicals into East Palestine, Ohio, Scripps News was the first news organization to uncover how company executives received millions in cash for actions that compromised safety, including making its trains longer and heavier. Weighing 18,000 tons, the derailed train was nearly two miles long.

Industry insiders, Congressional members, and former Federal Railroad Administration leaders expressed shock at what Scripps News uncovered:

-Norfolk Southern gave large cash payouts to executives for achieving “record performance for train length and weight.”

-It made its “operating ratio” the single biggest trigger for executive cash awards. Pressure to lower this controversial Wall Street metric led to dangerous cost-cutting.

-As operating ratio hit a record low, the company’s accident rate hit a 10-year high.

-It spent millions lobbying against safety proposals that jeopardized a low operating ratio.

Scripps News’ reports pushed the corporation to overhaul the incentives that drive company strategy.