Saturday, June 4, 2016

Amtrak Case Study Report

Amtrak Case Study Report
            On the fateful early morning of September 22, 1993, Amtrak Engine 892 also known as the “Sunset Limited” derailed on a bridge over the Big Bayou Canot.  The events of this tragic evening would result in 47 deaths and the worst recorded train crash in the history of Amtrak. There are multiple stakeholders in this case with varying interests. The stakeholders to be discussed are Amtrak, Chesapeake System Railroads (CSX), Warrior Gulf Navigation (WGN), National Transportation Safety Board, Mobile Emergency Response, passengers of Amtrak and the employees of Amtrak.  There are many other stakeholders that can be mentioned, just within Amtrak we can separate out the shareholders, safety team, employees who were working on engine 892 and those who were not.  For intents and purposes of this paper the aforementioned will be discussed. The corporate social responsibility of Amtrak both before and after the accident of the “Sunset Limited” will be discussed along with the recommended actions they should have taken in regards to improved safety, assisting the families of the deceased and assistance of the employees that were working on engine 892 and the Motor Vessel Mauvilla on the morning of September 22, 1993.
            Amtrak has the largest interest as a stakeholder and should be considered a primary stakeholder in the crash because it was an Amtrak train that derailed.  When the news about the accident first occurred there might have been mention of WGN’s tugboat, Motor Vessel Mauvilla, bumping the bridge but as time has gone by I’m sure people only remember that it was an Amtrak train that crashed.  The reason why Amtrak is a primary stakeholder is because they are directly affected and how they proceed after the crash will determine the reputation and earnings of Amtrak. CSX is also a primary stakeholder since they were responsible for the safety and maintenance of the rail where engine 892 jumped the track that was jarred 38 inches without sending any sort of alert. The main interest of CSX will be to put in better safety alerts going forward.  WGN is also a primary stakeholder since they are one of the root causes of the accident with their tugboat bumping into the bridge while trying to navigate without proper use of radar during a foggy night because of a lack of training. The NTSB is a key stakeholder because they are a government agency and have the ability to enact rules and regulations to reduce the chance of similar accidents in the future. (Community Toolbox, n.d.) The Mobile, Alabama emergency response system would be a primary stakeholder for their part in delaying the response time with not having proper information about the bayou area nor numbers for the Coast Guard response team.  The other employees of the 911 response will be secondary stakeholders since they will most likely be directly affected with better training. The passengers of “Sunset Limited” are primary stakeholders since they were present on the train and the survivors will eventually seek compensation. Their families with be secondary stakeholders because they are targets who suffered loss and will be part of class action suits.  The employees of Amtrak will be both primary and secondary based on if they were aboard engine 892 the morning of the crash or not. Those onboard will be primary and will be directly affected mentally for the rest of their life if they survived. The other Amtrak employees will receive better training and will also be the recipients of better safety precautions and procedures as a result.
            Halbert and Ingulli define Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as having a greater concern and responsibility then just profits and meeting the shareholder’s needs. (Law and Ethics in the Business Enviornment, 2014, p. 40) Prior to the accident Amtrak had the responsibilities to ensure a safe work environment to their employees, help to improve their local communities where they operated and try to reduce their carbon footprint while transiting the continent.  After the crash it was important for Amtrak to increase their CSR efforts by working with railroad lines such as CSX to improve safety conditions, ensure better safety procedures were enacted to reduce possible accidents, provide mental health options to their employees experiencing stress from the event and ensuring that the families affected were being assisted.
            Based on course readings, the Amtrak case study and independent research it is important that Amtrak take the lead on the following three recommendations. The first recommendation is that Amtrak work with the local railroads and NTSB to provide a better alert system that will signal red if the rails are moved off line as in the case of the rails on the bridge over Big Bayou Canot. Amtrak would be acting in the best interest of their shareholders and would ethically be following Milton’s Free Market ethics approach since the result of placing better safety devices would primarily be at the cost of the rail owners and benefit the reputation of Amtrak and future revenue capture. (Halbert & Ingulli, 2014, p. 13)  The increase in safety should also be looked at from a deontology point of view in that they should be willing to accept that the train will jump the track with them onboard if not fixed or even better that they would want all safety devices in place if they were riding the train. (Halbert & Ingulli, 2014, p. 20)
The second recommendation would be that Amtrak work with the families of the deceased passengers as well as the surviving passengers to ensure they are mentally adjusting as well as monetarily compensated.  A scholarship program for the children of the deceased passengers would also help. In the case of Brian Logan, aka Crocodile Dundee, he benefited from a class action suit and was able to pay off his college and live debt free while finding a job. (Logan, 2013) This would have been better if Amtrak and the other primary stakeholders had offered to make amends without class action.
The third and final recommendation is that Amtrak and WGN should ensure that their employees are adjusting mentally and provide all necessary and possible assistance that they can.  This is based on Carol Gilligan’s ethics of care theory that all mankind is intertwined and that we should do our best to take care of each other. (Halbert & Ingulli, 2014, p. 27) Gary Farmer, one of the conductors on the “Sunset Limited” years later wrote an essay of his accounts of that disastrous morning and the proceedings, interviews and hearings that would follow over the years that followed. Gary noted that Willie Odom and Captain Stabler who were piloting CSX’s tugboat looked like shells of walking dead men years after the crash when he would see them at hearings.  They were never able to shake the events of the crash.  CSX should have done everything in their power to provide assistance to these men who were burdening the weight of 47 deaths on their shoulders. (Farmer, n.d.)
While the morning of September 22, 1993 was a tragic day it is a day that can powerfully impact the CSR platform of companies noted as primary stakeholders as well as the key stakeholder the NTSB.  By ethically looking at the accident and the possibilities to make a positive out of the devastation the primary stakeholders could implement many new safety devices and procedures to prevent future “normal accidents.”



Community Toolbox. (n.d.). Retrieved October 16, 2015, from Kansas University:
Farmer, G. (n.d.). The Destruction of Amtrak's Sunset Limited at Bayou Canot. Retrieved October 17, 2015, from Gulf Coast Writers Association:
Halbert, T., & Ingulli, E. (2014). Law and Ethics in the Business Enviornment (Eighth ed.). Stamford, Conneticut: Cengage Learning. Retrieved from
Logan, B. (2013, November 17). Train Crashes. Retrieved from theguardian:

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