US railroads mostly on board with lawmakers' safety push-CSX CEO

FILE PHOTO: REUTERS EVENTS-US railroads mostly on board with lawmakers' safety push-CSX CEO

By Lisa Baertlein

CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. freight railroads agree with most of federal lawmakers' efforts to make the industry safer following the fiery Norfolk Southern train derailment in February, CSX Corp CEO Joe Hinrichs said on Wednesday.

A U.S. Senate panel last week approved rail safety legislation that tightens rules on trains carrying explosive substances like those that were transported on the Norfolk Southern-operated train that derailed in Ohio on Feb. 3.

The accident caused a fire that sent a cloud of smoke over the town of East Palestine, Ohio, releasing over a million gallons of hazardous materials and pollutants, and forced thousands of residents to evacuate.

"The industry is definitely on board with a number of things" in that legislation, Hinrichs said on the sidelines of the Reuters Events Supply Chain conference in Chicago. "We have disagreements with some things, but we're part of the conversation and working through it."

For example, he said, the industry does not want two-person crews written into the legislation because technology could evolve to improve safety to the point where one person would be equally safe.

Hinrichs, a former Ford Motor Co executive who became CEO at the No. 3 U.S. railroad last year, said railroad operators could benefit by adopting strategies from automakers who collaborate and share best practices on safety.

Nevertheless, he said, U.S. railroads are committed to reducing accidents, which will benefit the companies and their employees, as well as customers and communities near tracks.

"We want safety as much as you do," Hinrichs said.

(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Sonali Paul)